Using CASE with Data Modifying Statements

CASE, data modifying, UPDATE, INSERT, DELETE

What happens when you combine CASE with SQL’s data modifying statements? Find out in this article.

The CASE expression is a very useful part of SQL and one that you’ll employ frequently. We’ve already covered what the CASE expression does, how to format it, and how to use it in a SELECT statement in “Using CASE to Add Logic to a SELECT”. Another article, “How to Sort Records with the ORDER BY Clause” demonstrated how to use CASE in an ORDER BY clause.

But we have not exhausted all the possibilities of the CASE expression. In this post, we’ll discuss the use of CASE with SQL’s data modifying statements.

What Are SQL’s Data Modifying Statements?

There are three data modifying statements in SQL. They are called data modifying because they make changes to the data that is stored within a database table. These statements are quite familiar, even to novice SQL users. They are:

  • INSERT – Adds records to a table
  • UPDATE – Changes values in table columns
  • DELETE – Removes records from the table

We will see how each of these statements works with a CASE expression. However, before we begin to write queries, let’s look at the car table, shown below. We will use it in all our examples:

id brand model info
1 Ford Fiesta NULL
2 Ford Mondeo NULL
3 Opel Astra NULL
4 Ford Galaxy NULL
5 Toyota Corolla NULL
6 Toyota RAV4 NULL

As you can see, this table stores details about cars: their internal ID number, the brand of the car, the model name, and an optional field for additional information.

We’ll start our investigation of using data modifying statements with the CASE expression with the INSERT statement.

Inserting Records Using CASE

You can use an INSERT statement to enter new records into a table. If you want to move records from one table and into another, you use the SELECT INTO statement.

Our first example will demonstrate adding information into a new table, tab. This new table will be created with the query. Notice that we are actually using a SELECT INTO statement to do this. Here is how it works:

SELECT brand, model,
          CASE brand
               WHEN 'Ford' THEN 'Founder was Henry Ford'
               WHEN 'Opel' THEN 'Founder was Adam Opel'
               WHEN 'Toyota' THEN 'Founder was Kiichiro Toyoda'
                ELSE '-'
		END AS info
INTO tab
FROM car;

This SELECT INTO statement starts by taking data from the brand and model columns in the car table and moving it into the newly-created tab table. The third column in tab is the info column. The value in the info column depends on the value in the car.brand column. If the value in the car.brand column is “Ford”, the “Founder was Henry Ford” string will be displayed in the tab.info column. If the brand is “Opel”, then the “Founder was Adam Opel” string will be displayed; for “Toyota”, the string “Founder was Kiichiro Toyoda” will be displayed. In any remaining cases, the returned value will be “- “.

Here is the resulting tab table and its content:

brand model info
Ford Fiesta Founder was Henry Ford
Ford Mondeo Founder was Henry Ford
Opel Astra Founder was Adam Opel
Ford Galaxy Founder was Henry Ford
Toyota Corolla Founder was Kiichiro Toyoda
Toyota RAV4 Founder was Kiichiro Toyoda

Using CASE with UPDATE

The CASE expression can also be used in an UPDATE statement. You are familiar with the UPDATE statement; it changes or updates existing column values. If you want to update records based on column values, you can do it with the CASE expression. Look at the following example:

UPDATE car SET info =
CASE brand
          WHEN 'Ford' THEN 'Founder was Henry Ford'
          WHEN 'Toyota' THEN 'Founder was Kiichiro Toyoda'
          ELSE '-'
          END
;

We see that the information in the info column has been updated. Usually, we would put the new value in the SET clause. Instead, this predetermined value has been replaced by the CASE expression. The CASE tests the value in the brand column and uses that to determine what to enter in the info column. If anything other than “Ford” or “Toyota” is stored in the brand column, a “-” string will be displayed into the info column for that record.

Here is the car table after the update:

id brand model info
1 Ford Fiesta Founder was Henry Ford
2 Ford Mondeo Founder was Henry Ford
3 Opel Astra
4 Ford Galaxy Founder was Henry Ford
5 Toyota Corolla Founder was Kiichiro Toyoda
6 Toyota RAV4 Founder was Kiichiro Toyoda

Notice that the record for the Opel Astra doesn’t have anything in the info column. This is because “Opel” was not specified as a brand in the WHEN of the CASE expression. The value defined in ELSE has been returned.

Deleting Data Using the CASE Expression

Now let’s discuss the last of the data modifying statements: DELETE. It is used to remove records from a table. Once again, you can use the CASE expression in the WHERE clause to control your results. Look at this example:

DELETE FROM car 
WHERE FALSE = CASE 
    WHEN info IS NOT NULL THEN TRUE
      ELSE FALSE
END
;

This CASE tests if the value in the info column is NULL. If it is not NULL, then the TRUE value is returned. If the value is NULL, the FALSE value from ELSE is returned. If the CASE expression returns a FALSE value, that record is deleted.

Below we see the car table after rows with NULL values in the info column have been deleted:

id brand model info
1 Ford Fiesta Founder was Henry Ford
2 Ford Mondeo Founder was Henry Ford
4 Ford Galaxy Founder was Henry Ford
5 Toyota Corolla Founder was Kiichiro Toyoda
6 Toyota RAV4 Founder was Kiichiro Toyoda

Learn More About the SQL CASE Expression

If you are interested in learning more about the CASE expression, check out Vertabelo Academy’s Standard SQL Functions course. You will learn more about this expression and others. Plus, you can practice your new skills with interactive exercises. Try it today!

Data Science Writer @ Vertabelo

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