What is the difference between “INNER JOIN” and “OUTER JOIN”?

0 votes
asked Sep 1, 2008 by chris-de-vries

Also how do LEFT JOIN, RIGHT JOIN and FULL JOIN fit in?

30 Answers

0 votes
answered Sep 1, 2008 by 1800-information

A inner join only shows rows if there is a matching record on the other (right) side of the join.

A (left) outer join shows rows for each record on the left hand side, even if there are no matching rows on the other (right) side of the join. If there is no matching row, the columns for the other (right) side would show NULLs.

0 votes
answered Sep 1, 2008 by brian-boatright

Inner joins require that a record with a related ID exist in the joined table.

Outer joins will return records for the left side even if nothing exists for the right side.

For instance, you have an Orders and an OrderDetails table. They are related by an "OrderID".

Orders

  • OrderID
  • CustomerName

OrderDetails

  • OrderDetailID
  • OrderID
  • ProductName
  • Qty
  • Price

The request

SELECT Orders.OrderID, Orders.CustomerName FROM Orders 
INNER JOIN OrderDetails ON Orders.OrderID = OrderDetails.OrderID

will only return Orders that also have something in the OrderDetails table.

If you change it to OUTER LEFT JOIN

SELECT Orders.OrderID, Orders.CustomerName FROM Orders 
LEFT JOIN OrderDetails ON Orders.OrderID = OrderDetails.OrderID

then it will return records from the Orders table even if they have no OrderDetails records.

You can use this to find Orders that do not have any OrderDetails indicating a possible orphaned order by adding a where clause like WHERE OrderDetails.OrderID IS NULL.

0 votes
answered Sep 1, 2008 by mark-harrison

Assuming you're joining on columns with no duplicates, which is a very common case:

  • An inner join of A and B gives the result of A intersect B, i.e. the inner part of a Venn diagram intersection.

  • An outer join of A and B gives the results of A union B, i.e. the outer parts of a Venn diagram union.

Examples

Suppose you have two tables, with a single column each, and data as follows:

A    B
-    -
1    3
2    4
3    5
4    6

Note that (1,2) are unique to A, (3,4) are common, and (5,6) are unique to B.

Inner join

An inner join using either of the equivalent queries gives the intersection of the two tables, i.e. the two rows they have in common.

select * from a INNER JOIN b on a.a = b.b;
select a.*,b.*  from a,b where a.a = b.b;

a | b
--+--
3 | 3
4 | 4

Left outer join

A left outer join will give all rows in A, plus any common rows in B.

select * from a LEFT OUTER JOIN b on a.a = b.b;
select a.*,b.*  from a,b where a.a = b.b(+);

a |  b
--+-----
1 | null
2 | null
3 |    3
4 |    4

Right outer join

A right outer join will give all rows in B, plus any common rows in A.

select * from a RIGHT OUTER JOIN b on a.a = b.b;
select a.*,b.*  from a,b where a.a(+) = b.b;

a    |  b
-----+----
3    |  3
4    |  4
null |  5
null |  6

Full outer join

A full outer join will give you the union of A and B, i.e. all the rows in A and all the rows in B. If something in A doesn't have a corresponding datum in B, then the B portion is null, and vice versa.

select * from a FULL OUTER JOIN b on a.a = b.b;

 a   |  b
-----+-----
   1 | null
   2 | null
   3 |    3
   4 |    4
null |    6
null |    5
0 votes
answered Sep 30, 2009 by ya23

I recommend Jeff's blog article. The best description I've ever seen, plus there is a visualization, e.g.:

Inner Join:

enter image description here

Full Outer Join:

enter image description here

0 votes
answered Sep 2, 2010 by naga

INNER JOIN requires there is at least a match in comparing the two tables. For example, table A and table B which implies A ٨ B (A intersection B).

LEFT OUTER JOIN and LEFT JOIN are the same. It gives all the records matching in both tables and all possibilities of the left table.

Similarly, RIGHT OUTER JOIN and RIGHT JOIN are the same. It gives all the records matching in both tables and all possibilities of the right table.

FULL JOIN is the combination of LEFT OUTER JOIN and RIGHT OUTER JOIN without duplication.

0 votes
answered Sep 14, 2011 by gtiwari333

The following was taken from the article "MySQL - LEFT JOIN and RIGHT JOIN, INNER JOIN and OUTER JOIN" by Graham Ellis on his blog Horse's Mouth.

In a database such as MySQL, data is divided into a number of tables which are then connected (Joined) together by JOIN in SELECT commands to read records from multiple tables. Read this example to see how it works.

First, some sample data:

people
    mysql> select * from people;
    +------------+--------------+------+
    | name       | phone        | pid  |
    +------------+--------------+------+
    | Mr Brown   | 01225 708225 |    1 |
    | Miss Smith | 01225 899360 |    2 |
    | Mr Pullen  | 01380 724040 |    3 |
    +------------+--------------+------+
    3 rows in set (0.00 sec)

property
    mysql> select * from property;
    +------+------+----------------------+
    | pid  | spid | selling              |
    +------+------+----------------------+
    |    1 |    1 | Old House Farm       |
    |    3 |    2 | The Willows          |
    |    3 |    3 | Tall Trees           |
    |    3 |    4 | The Melksham Florist |
    |    4 |    5 | Dun Roamin           |
    +------+------+----------------------+
    5 rows in set (0.00 sec)

REGULAR JOIN

If we do a regular JOIN (with none of the keywords INNER, OUTER, LEFT or RIGHT), then we get all records that match in the appropriate way in the two tables, and records in both incoming tables that do not match are not reported:

mysql> select name, phone, selling 
from people join property 
on people.pid = property.pid;
+-----------+--------------+----------------------+
| name      | phone        | selling              |
+-----------+--------------+----------------------+
| Mr Brown  | 01225 708225 | Old House Farm       |
| Mr Pullen | 01380 724040 | The Willows          |
| Mr Pullen | 01380 724040 | Tall Trees           |
| Mr Pullen | 01380 724040 | The Melksham Florist |
+-----------+--------------+----------------------+
4 rows in set (0.01 sec)

LEFT JOIN

If we do a LEFT JOIN, we get all records that match in the same way and IN ADDITION we get an extra record for each unmatched record in the left table of the join - thus ensuring (in this example) that every PERSON gets a mention:

   mysql> select name, phone, selling 
    from people left join property 
    on people.pid = property.pid; 
    +------------+--------------+----------------------+
    | name       | phone        | selling              |
    +------------+--------------+----------------------+
    | Mr Brown   | 01225 708225 | Old House Farm       |
    | Miss Smith | 01225 899360 | NULL <<-- unmatch    |
    | Mr Pullen  | 01380 724040 | The Willows          |
    | Mr Pullen  | 01380 724040 | Tall Trees           |
    | Mr Pullen  | 01380 724040 | The Melksham Florist |
    +------------+--------------+----------------------+
    5 rows in set (0.00 sec)

RIGHT JOIN

If we do a RIGHT JOIN, we get all the records that match and IN ADDITION an extra record for each unmatched record in the right table of the join - in my example, that means that each property gets a mention even if we don't have seller details:

mysql> select name, phone, selling 
from people right join property 
on people.pid = property.pid;
+-----------+--------------+----------------------+
| name      | phone        | selling              |
+-----------+--------------+----------------------+
| Mr Brown  | 01225 708225 | Old House Farm       |
| Mr Pullen | 01380 724040 | The Willows          |
| Mr Pullen | 01380 724040 | Tall Trees           |
| Mr Pullen | 01380 724040 | The Melksham Florist |
| NULL      | NULL         | Dun Roamin           |
+-----------+--------------+----------------------+
5 rows in set (0.00 sec)

An INNER JOIN does a full join, just like the first example, and the word OUTER may be added after the word LEFT or RIGHT in the last two examples - it's provided for ODBC compatibility and doesn't add an extra capabilities.

0 votes
answered Sep 27, 2012 by vijikumar

You use INNER JOIN to return all rows from both tables where there is a match. i.e. In the resulting table all the rows and columns will have values.

In OUTER JOIN the resulting table may have empty columns. Outer join may be either LEFT or RIGHT.

LEFT OUTER JOIN returns all the rows from the first table, even if there are no matches in the second table.

RIGHT OUTER JOIN returns all the rows from the second table, even if there are no matches in the first table.

0 votes
answered Jan 17, 2013 by lajos-veres

I don't see much details about performance and optimizer in the other answers.

Sometimes it is good to know that only INNER JOIN is associative which means the optimizer has the most option to play with it. It can reorder the join order to make it faster keeping the same result. The optimizer can use the most join modes.

Generally it is a good practice to try to use INNER JOIN instead of the different kind of joins. (Of course if it is possible considering the expected result set.)

There are a couple of good examples and explanation here about this strange associative behavior:

0 votes
answered Jan 18, 2013 by aldee

The difference is in the way tables are joined if there are no common records.

  • JOIN is same as INNER JOIN and means to only show records common to both tables. Whether the records are common is determined by the fields in join clause. For example:

    FROM t1
    JOIN t2 on t1.ID = t2.ID
    

    means show only records where the same ID value exists in both tables.

  • LEFT JOIN is same as LEFT OUTER JOIN and means to show all records from left table (i.e. the one that precedes in SQL statement) regardless of the existance of matching records in the right table.

  • RIGHT JOIN is same as RIGHT OUTER JOIN and means opposite of LEFT JOIN, i.e. shows all records from the second (right) table and only matching records from first (left) table.

Source: What's the difference between LEFT, RIGHT, INNER, OUTER, JOIN?

0 votes
answered Sep 12, 2013 by vidyadhar

In simple words:

An inner join retrieve the matched rows only.

Whereas an outer join retrieve the matched rows from one table and all rows in other table ....the result depends on which one you are using:

  • Left: Matched rows in the right table and all rows in the left table

  • Right: Matched rows in the left table and all rows in the right table or

  • Full: All rows in all tables. It doesn't matter if there is a match or not

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