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By Carsten | October 3, 2005

Recently, I was asked to contribute a series of entries for the MySQL Network Knowledge Base (to which you get access only if you’re a MySQL Network subscriber).

I thought the following ones were kind of fun, so I asked the maintainer if I would be allowed to post them here — and maybe someone could tell me if I’m completely off-track or have suggestions for improvements.

Updated: My esteemed colleague Dean Ellis made me aware of a couple of issues with my suggestions, so here’s an update


An INTERSECT is simply an inner join where we compare the tuples of one table with those of the other, and select those that appear in both while weeding out duplicates. So

SELECT member_id, name FROM a
SELECT member_id, name FROM b

can simply be rewritten to

SELECT a.member_id,
USING (member_id, name)

For more MySQL-related information om this site, see:
MySQL Pop Quizzes || MySQL Function of the Day
Other MySQL blog entries

Performing a MINUS

To transform the statement

SELECT member_id, name FROM a
SELECT member_id, name FROM b

into something that MySQL can process, we can utilize subqueries (available from MySQL 4.1 onward). The easy-to-understand transformation is:

SELECT DISTINCT member_id, name
WHERE (member_id, name) NOT IN
(SELECT member_id, name FROM table2);

Of course, to any long-time MySQL user, this is immediately obvious as the classical use-left-join-to-find-what-isn’t-in-the-other-table:

SELECT DISTINCT a.member_id,
FROM a LEFT JOIN b USING (member_id, name)
WHERE b.member_id IS NULL

which tends to be a lot more efficient.

Topics: MySQL |

47 Responses to “Doing INTERSECT and MINUS in MySQL”

  1. Robin Says:
    October 16th, 2005 at 9:31 pm

    These examples are very usefull, however, I think it is important to comment that internally something totally different happens. When you would do and INTERSECT query for example, it would query the results from table A and table B and then compare both sets. With the MySQL solution you describe it would query all results from the first table and then do a lookup for each result in the second table. This results in worse performance when your query returns a huge number of results. For most uses your approach will be a good solution doh :)

  2. Bidesh Mukherjee Says:
    October 4th, 2006 at 1:44 pm

    This is realy very helpful. i have across the fact that mysql 4.0 version
    has lots of limitation. coming from oracle background it is difficult to think of writting queries when you are not sure whether this will work or not. so this kind of website proves to be very handy. Thank you

  3. talunan Says:
    May 4th, 2007 at 10:05 am

    what if i have 3 tables or more to intersect with each other? thanks!

  4. Tim-Hinnerk Heuer Says:
    August 10th, 2007 at 8:21 am

    I would assume for 3 or more tables you would do:
    SELECT a.member_id,
    USING (member_id, name) INNER JOIN c USING (member_id, name)

    for intersect. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Haven’t tried this.

  5. Shubh Says:
    November 21st, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    I need to perform ‘minus’ between two tables. But the only field I am using in select statement is ‘count(*)’. How to preform it?
    Thanks in advance.

  6. Wirtschaftsinformatik Blog » Blog Archiv » MySQL und MINUS Says:
    December 1st, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    [...] Alternativ kann man das auch mit einem Left Join lösen. Alle Varianten haben mit dem Original-MINUS gemein, dass sie recht unperformant sind. (Gefunden bei bitbybit) [...]

  7. Bagesh Singh Says:
    December 12th, 2007 at 7:54 am

    hi INTERSECT is not working in mysql

    my query is this

    select user_id from answer_master where answer=’abc’ and q_id=’199′ INTERSECT select user_id from answer_master where answer=’abc’ and q_id=’198′

  8. Victor Anchidin Says:
    December 15th, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    Bahesh Singh, this article is about how to do an intersection in MySQL. Even if the author refers abou INTERSECT, this statement doesn’t exist in MySQL sql language.

  9. Gints Plivna Says:
    January 3rd, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    Actually statements
    SELECT member_id, name FROM a
    SELECT member_id, name FROM b


    SELECT a.member_id,
    USING (member_id, name)
    are functionally DIFFERENT.

    INTERSECT and MINUS (EXCEPT) are operating on unique tuples, see example (in Oracle but this is not relevant):

    SQL> create table a (member_id number, name varchar(10));
    Table created.
    SQL> create table b (member_id number, name varchar(10));
    Table created.
    SQL> insert into a values (1, ‘a’);
    1 row created.
    SQL> insert into a values (1, ‘b’);
    1 row created.
    SQL> insert into a values (1, ‘b’);
    1 row created.
    SQL> insert into b values (1, ‘b’);
    1 row created.
    SQL> commit;
    Commit complete.
    SQL> SELECT member_id, name FROM a
    3 SELECT member_id, name FROM b
    SQL> /
    ———- ———-
    1 b
    SQL> SELECT a.member_id,
    3 USING (member_id, name)
    SQL> /
    SELECT a.member_id,
    ERROR at line 1:
    ORA-25154: column part of USING clause cannot have qualifier
    SQL> ed
    Wrote file afiedt.buf
    1 SELECT member_id, name
    3* USING (member_id, name)
    SQL> /
    ———- ———-
    1 b
    1 b
    So as you can see returned sets are different.

  10. m c d Says:
    February 5th, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    thank you thank you thank you

  11. Justin Says:
    February 8th, 2008 at 4:12 am

    the use-left-join-to-find……. is an:

  12. For those who don't use SQL too much, just like me. | Says:
    June 17th, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    [...] Doing INTERSECT and MINUS in MySQL: classical use-left-join-to-find-what-isn’t-in-the-other-table [...]

  13. Paulo Köch Says:
    June 17th, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    use-left-join-to-find-what-isn’t-in-the-other-table: Sir, you deserve
    a post.

  14. Mark Says:
    July 20th, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    I think that the two MINUS implementations (subquery vs. left join) are semantically different if (member_id, name) is not unique in both tables.

    As an example (taken from Amarok’s MySQL back-end)
    given (only showing relevant fields):
    TABLE artist (
    — One row per artist INT UNSIGNED NOT NULL, TEXT NOT NULL);
    TABLE tags (
    — One row per track. There may be multiple
    — tracks per artist.
    url TEXT NOT NULL,
    TABLE lyrics (
    — One row per track with lyrics. Many tracks
    — do not have lyrics available.
    url TEXT NOT NULL,
    FOREIGN KEY (url) REFERENCES (tags.url));

    we would like to generate a list of artists for which there are no lyrics available (e.g., if there are five tracks for an artist, this artist should be a member of the returned list if _none_ of the tracks have lyrics).

    The subquery implementation generates the desired result, e.g.:
    SELECT DISTINCT FROM artist WHERE NOT IN (SELECT FROM artist, tags, lyrics WHERE = tags.artist AND tags.url = lyrics.url) ORDER BY

    But the left join implementation (in my hands) generates a larger result set: all artists for which _any_ track does not have lyrics:
    SELECT DISTINCT FROM artist JOIN tags ON tags.artist = LEFT JOIN lyrics ON tags.url = lyrics.url WHERE lyrics.url IS NULL ORDER BY

    I would expect the semantics of the MINUS statement to match the first case, but I do not have SQL experience outside of MySQL.

  15. the N log N » Blog Archive » Homework 2 (Cont.) Says:
    February 2nd, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    [...] found a page that has two alternatives to doing this. The first is supposedly less [...]

  16. Jason Zhou Says:
    March 2nd, 2009 at 12:29 am

    Thank you so much! It has been extremely helpful. By the way, use-left-join-to-find-what-isn’t-in-the-other-table ROCKS!!!

  17. saurabh Says:
    March 24th, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Intersect function isn’t working in MySql.

  18. Ankur Says:
    April 28th, 2009 at 11:50 am

    I was wondering why ‘Intersect’ isn’t supported by Mysql. Is there a reason for this?

  19. Zs Says:
    June 3rd, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    hey all,

    “use-left-join-to-find-what-isn’t-in-the-other-table” is a nice solution if you have 2 queries, kinda sucks if you have like 10 …

    instead of Q1 intersect Q2 intersect Q3, you have to join Q(n) to Q(n-1), which is quite a pain in the ass…

    Mysql should have intersect, its important…


  20. Carsten Says:
    June 9th, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    uhm Zs… if you need to do 10 intersects it might be time to consider your db design?

  21. Tes Says:
    October 14th, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    How about if I want to intersect within the same table? E.g. I have a table ‘prescription’ with details of patients and the drugs they are taking. I want to select patients that are taking BOTH drug A and drug B so I can’t use IN operator as it will also give me those only taking one of the drugs. Does MySQL allow use of the INTERSECT operator? I am getting an error for this query but am not sure I can achieve it with a JOIN operator Any suggestions?

  22. Evan Says:
    March 4th, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    Dude, you just answered what I was working on for hours! And this article was written like 5 years ago so you’ll probably never read this! Specifically I couldn’t get MINUS to work in Access 2007, so I used your alternative and it seems to work correctly! Thanks!

  23. Carsten Says:
    March 5th, 2010 at 9:57 am


    Of course I read your comment. The internet doesn’t forget :-)

  24. Fil Matthews Says:
    March 16th, 2010 at 6:29 am

    The constant “small minded” thinking of MYSQL does nothing encourage any kind of respect. UNIONS are NOT necessarily a simple join from one table to another. A Union can and quite often is a s complex selection over several tables. The suggestion above that a simple “join” replaces an Intersect is a stupid as the person who wrote it.

  25. Carsten Says:
    March 16th, 2010 at 7:55 am


    Being as smart as you obviously are, I’m sure you’d have no problems extending the principles in the article to more complex situations using subselects and other methods.

  26. Nitin Says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    specific and useful. thanks..

  27. Peter Says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    Thank you, Carsten! You just helped me solve a problem I’ve been struggling with for a couple of days. Best of luck to you!

  28. bert Says:
    April 23rd, 2010 at 5:32 am

    i have about 9000+ in both ‘a’ and ‘b’, and my server locks up everytime using the LEFT JOIN…suggestions? i used the syntax above exactly. please help!!!

  29. Steeefan Says:
    August 23rd, 2010 at 5:59 am

    Thank you very much! This is really helpful, especially the LEFT JOIN.

  30. yunan Says:
    September 9th, 2010 at 4:52 am

    If I retrieve some data from webservice and want to perform intersect/minus operation with record in local tables, so cannot use join or sub-query,how can i do?

  31. steveb Says:
    November 5th, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Actually, MySql is the only big DBMS that is not able to UNION/INTERSECT/MINUS selects.
    No workarounds for complex queries like
    select A intersect (select B union select C)
    and so on.

  32. gazmanic Says:
    April 14th, 2011 at 4:06 am

    not exists works too.

    ie you have two similar querys A and B. A has the higher row count and you want to find the extra rows.
    query A and not exists (query B) having count(*)>1

  33. James Says:
    August 19th, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    I have the same problem as bert above. I have over 14,000 records in each table. This is a nice workaround to MySQL’s limitations for small-scale tables, but does anybody know a more efficient way to handle much larger sets of data? Thanks.

  34. James Says:
    August 19th, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    Answered my own question. At least if you’re using PHP, you can populate one array with the results of the first relation and a second array with the results of the second relation, then simply loop through the elements, comparing each one and spill the results you want into a third array. Of course make sure to unset your arrays when done to save memory. But the results were almost instant on 14,000+ record tables.

  35. Kalha Says:
    September 12th, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Why do they not implement those MINUS and INTERSECT things ? This is so much easier than mysql joins !

    MySql syntax for inner ant outter joins is just a nightmare for who’s used to ORACLE’s (+) !!!!

  36. DHEERAJ Says:
    October 17th, 2011 at 5:04 am

    “SELECT DISTINCT member_id, name
    FROM a
    WHERE (member_id, name) NOT IN
    (SELECT member_id, name FROM table2)”

  37. netstat Says:
    March 6th, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    I see INTERSECT and MINUS as being rudimentary parts of set theory, they really should be directly supported.

  38. Shashi Says:
    December 10th, 2012 at 7:27 am

    Can we do

    SELECT a.IDMember, b.Member, a.IDBanner, c.BannerName, a.IDReceipt, a.BillDate, a.payType, a.Particulars,
    a.Amount from tblreceipt a, tblMember b, tblbanner c where a.IDMember = b.MemberID and a.IDBanner = c.IDBanner


    SELECT a.IDMember, b.Member, a.IDBanner, c.BannerName, a.IDReceipt, a.BillDate, a.payType, d.Particulars,
    d.Amount from tblreceipt a, tblMember b, tblbanner c, tblotherfee d
    where a.IDMember = b.MemberID and a.IDBanner = c.IDBanner and a.IDReceipt = d.IDReceipt

  39. Tabellen vergleichen und ?nderungen ?bernehmen - Delphi-PRAXiS Says:
    January 22nd, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    [...] war ich dann wohl etwas schlampig. Aber es gibt dutzende Anleitungen, wie man nachbaut, z.b. hier: Zitat: Performing a MINUS To transform the statement markieren Code: SELECT member_id, [...]

  40. shiva Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 8:58 am

    hello intersect is not working for mysql,
    instead of u can use inner join

  41. How to write a specific MySQL query to perform a relational division/ intersect? Id est, what query do I write? | BlogoSfera Says:
    May 1st, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    [...] doing Logical AND ; Relational Algebra : Division ; Divided we Stand ; Advanced SQL : Intersect ; Doing INTERSECT and MINUS in MySQL and Alternative to INTERSECT in [...]

  42. ozzydapg Says:
    July 3rd, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    I think INSERSECT is not supported in MySql, so Carsten’s examples are very helpful either for mysql users or oracle, etc

  43. satyendra yadav Says:
    December 5th, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    thank for post. its too helpful for me.

    i earn 5000 rupee by using this query

    FROM customer
    WHERE (box_no) NOT IN
    (SELECT box_no FROM bill);

  44. Neeta Khadtare Says:
    June 28th, 2014 at 7:00 am

    Thank you, for your notes about intersect query but it is not work in MySql.

  45. fathur Says:
    August 4th, 2014 at 10:40 am

    thank you :)

  46. Gaurav Says:
    October 14th, 2014 at 3:40 am

    Loved your solution.. Helped me big time..
    Thanks a lot

  47. probal rudra Says:
    May 29th, 2015 at 8:43 am

    intersect and minus operator is not work properly in my sql.. please help me..!