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5.6. UNION and CASE Constructs

SQL UNION constructs must match up possibly dissimilar types to become a single result set. The resolution algorithm is applied separately to each output column of a union query. The INTERSECT and EXCEPT constructs resolve dissimilar types in the same way as UNION. A CASE construct also uses the identical algorithm to match up its component expressions and select a result data type.

UNION and CASE Type Resolution

  1. If all inputs are of type unknown, resolve as type text (the preferred type for string category). Otherwise, ignore the unknown inputs while choosing the type.

  2. If the non-unknown inputs are not all of the same type category, fail.

  3. If one or more non-unknown inputs are of a preferred type in that category, resolve as that type.

  4. Otherwise, resolve as the type of the first non-unknown input.

  5. Coerce all inputs to the selected type.


Example 5-7. Underspecified Types in a Union

tgl=> SELECT text 'a' AS "Text" UNION SELECT 'b';
(2 rows)

Here, the unknown-type literal 'b' will be resolved as type text.

Example 5-8. Type Conversion in a Simple Union

tgl=> SELECT 1.2 AS "Double" UNION SELECT 1;
(2 rows)

The literal 1.2 is of type double precision, the preferred type in the numeric category, so that type is used.

Example 5-9. Type Conversion in a Transposed Union

Here the output type of the union is forced to match the type of the first clause in the union:

tgl=> SELECT 1 AS "All integers"
 All integers
(2 rows)

Since REAL is not a preferred type, the parser sees no reason to select it over INTEGER (which is what the 1 is), and instead falls back on the use-the-first-alternative rule. This example demonstrates that the preferred-type mechanism doesn't encode as much information as we'd like. Future versions of PostgreSQL may support a more general notion of type preferences.