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EXCEPT and INTERSECT (Transact-SQL)

Returns distinct rows by comparing the results of two queries.

EXCEPT returns distinct rows from the left input query that aren’t output by the right input query.

INTERSECT returns distinct rows that are output by both the left and right input queries.

The basic rules for combining the result sets of two queries that use EXCEPT or INTERSECT are the following:

  • The number and the order of the columns must be the same in all queries.

  • The data types must be compatible.

Applies to: SQL Server (SQL Server 2008 through current version), Azure SQL Database.

Topic link icon Transact-SQL Syntax Conventions

{ <query_specification> | ( <query_expression> ) } 
{ EXCEPT | INTERSECT }
{ <query_specification> | ( <query_expression> ) }

<query_specification> | ( <query_expression> )

Is a query specification or query expression that returns data to be compared with the data from another query specification or query expression. The definitions of the columns that are part of an EXCEPT or INTERSECT operation do not have to be the same, but they must be comparable through implicit conversion. When data types differ, the type that is used to perform the comparison and return results is determined based on the rules for data type precedence.

When the types are the same but differ in precision, scale, or length, the result is determined based on the same rules for combining expressions. For more information, see Precision, Scale, and Length (Transact-SQL).

The query specification or expression cannot return xml, text, ntext, image, or nonbinary CLR user-defined type columns because these data types are not comparable.

EXCEPT

EXCEPT returns distinct rows from the left input query that aren’t output by the right input query.

INTERSECT

Returns any distinct values that are returned by both the query on the left and right sides of the INTERSECT operator.

When the data types of comparable columns that are returned by the queries to the left and right of the EXCEPT or INTERSECT operators are character data types with different collations, the required comparison is performed according to the rules of collation precedence. If this conversion cannot be performed, the SQL Server Database Engine returns an error.

When comparing column values for determining DISTINCT rows, two NULL values are considered equal.

The column names of the result set that are returned by EXCEPT or INTERSECT are the same names as those returned by the query on the left side of the operator.

Column names or aliases in ORDER BY clauses must reference column names returned by the left-side query.

The nullability of any column in the result set returned by EXCEPT or INTERSECT is the same as the nullability of the corresponding column that is returned by the query on the left side of the operator.

If EXCEPT or INTERSECT is used together with other operators in an expression, it is evaluated in the context of the following precedence:

  1. Expressions in parentheses

  2. The INTERSECT operator

  3. EXCEPT and UNION evaluated from left to right based on their position in the expression

If EXCEPT or INTERSECT is used to compare more than two sets of queries, data type conversion is determined by comparing two queries at a time, and following the previously mentioned rules of expression evaluation.

EXCEPT and INTERSECT cannot be used in distributed partitioned view definitions, query notifications.

EXCEPT and INTERSECT may be used in distributed queries, but are only executed on the local server and not pushed to the linked server. Therefore, using EXCEPT and INTERSECT in distributed queries may affect performance.

Fast forward-only and static cursors are fully supported in the result set when they are used with an EXCEPT or INTERSECT operation. If a keyset-driven or dynamic cursor is used together with an EXCEPT or INTERSECT operation, the cursor of the result set of the operation is converted to a static cursor.

When an EXCEPT operation is displayed by using the Graphical Showplan feature in SQL Server Management Studio, the operation appears as a left anti semi join, and an INTERSECT operation appears as a left semi join.

The following examples show how to use the INTERSECT and EXCEPT operators. The first query returns all values from the Production.Product table for comparison to the results with INTERSECT and EXCEPT.

USE AdventureWorks2012;
GO
SELECT ProductID 
FROM Production.Product ;
--Result: 504 Rows

The following query returns any distinct values that are returned by both the query on the left and right sides of the INTERSECT operator.

USE AdventureWorks2012;
GO
SELECT ProductID 
FROM Production.Product
INTERSECT
SELECT ProductID 
FROM Production.WorkOrder ;
--Result: 238 Rows (products that have work orders)

The following query returns any distinct values from the query to the left of the EXCEPT operator that are not also found on the right query.

USE AdventureWorks2012;
GO
SELECT ProductID 
FROM Production.Product
EXCEPT
SELECT ProductID 
FROM Production.WorkOrder ;
--Result: 266 Rows (products without work orders)

The following query returns any distinct values from the query to the left of the EXCEPT operator that are not also found on the right query. The tables are reversed from the previous example.

USE AdventureWorks2012;
GO
SELECT ProductID 
FROM Production.WorkOrder
EXCEPT
SELECT ProductID 
FROM Production.Product ;
--Result: 0 Rows (work orders without products)
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