Handling MySQL NULL Values


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We have seen the SQL SELECT command along with the WHERE clause to fetch data from a MySQL table, but when we try to give a condition, which compares the field or the column value to NULL, it does not work properly.

To handle such a situation, MySQL provides three operators −

  • IS NULL − This operator returns true, if the column value is NULL.

  • IS NOT NULL − This operator returns true, if the column value is not NULL.

  • <=> − This operator compares values, which (unlike the = operator) is true even for two NULL values.

The conditions involving NULL are special. You cannot use = NULL or != NULL to look for NULL values in columns. Such comparisons always fail because it is impossible to tell whether they are true or not. Sometimes, even NULL = NULL fails.

To look for columns that are or are not NULL, use IS NULL or IS NOT NULL.

Using NULL values at the Command Prompt

Assume that there is a table called tcount_tbl in the TUTORIALS database and it contains two columns namely tutorial_author and tutorial_count, where a NULL tutorial_count indicates that the value is unknown.

Example

Try the following examples −

root@host# mysql -u root -p password;
Enter password:*******

mysql> use TUTORIALS;
Database changed

mysql> create table tcount_tbl
   -> (
   -> tutorial_author varchar(40) NOT NULL,
   -> tutorial_count  INT
   -> );
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.05 sec)

mysql> INSERT INTO tcount_tbl
   -> (tutorial_author, tutorial_count) values ('mahran', 20);

mysql> INSERT INTO tcount_tbl
   -> (tutorial_author, tutorial_count) values ('mahnaz', NULL);

mysql> INSERT INTO tcount_tbl
   -> (tutorial_author, tutorial_count) values ('Jen', NULL);

mysql> INSERT INTO tcount_tbl
   -> (tutorial_author, tutorial_count) values ('Gill', 20);

mysql> SELECT * from tcount_tbl;
+-----------------+----------------+
| tutorial_author | tutorial_count |
+-----------------+----------------+
|     mahran      |       20       |
|     mahnaz      |      NULL      |
|      Jen        |      NULL      |
|     Gill        |       20       |
+-----------------+----------------+
4 rows in set (0.00 sec)

mysql>

You can see that = and != do not work with NULL values as follows −

mysql> SELECT * FROM tcount_tbl WHERE tutorial_count = NULL;
Empty set (0.00 sec)

mysql> SELECT * FROM tcount_tbl WHERE tutorial_count != NULL;
Empty set (0.01 sec)

To find the records where the tutorial_count column is or is not NULL, the queries should be written as shown in the following program.

mysql> SELECT * FROM tcount_tbl 
    -> WHERE tutorial_count IS NULL;
+-----------------+----------------+
| tutorial_author | tutorial_count |
+-----------------+----------------+
|     mahnaz      |      NULL      |
|      Jen        |      NULL      |
+-----------------+----------------+
2 rows in set (0.00 sec)
mysql> SELECT * from tcount_tbl 
    -> WHERE tutorial_count IS NOT NULL;
+-----------------+----------------+
| tutorial_author | tutorial_count |
+-----------------+----------------+
|     mahran      |       20       |
|     Gill        |       20       |
+-----------------+----------------+
2 rows in set (0.00 sec)

Handling NULL Values in a PHP Script

You can use the if...else condition to prepare a query based on the NULL value.

Example

The following example takes the tutorial_count from outside and then compares it with the value available in the table.

<?php
   $dbhost = 'localhost:3036';
   $dbuser = 'root';
   $dbpass = 'rootpassword';
   $conn = mysql_connect($dbhost, $dbuser, $dbpass);

   if(! $conn ) {
      die('Could not connect: ' . mysql_error());
   }

   if( isset($tutorial_count )) {
      $sql = 'SELECT tutorial_author, tutorial_count
         FROM  tcount_tbl
         WHERE tutorial_count = $tutorial_count';
   } else {
      $sql = 'SELECT tutorial_author, tutorial_count
         FROM  tcount_tbl
         WHERE tutorial_count IS $tutorial_count';
   }

   mysql_select_db('TUTORIALS');
   $retval = mysql_query( $sql, $conn );
   
   if(! $retval ) {
      die('Could not get data: ' . mysql_error());
   }

   while($row = mysql_fetch_array($retval, MYSQL_ASSOC)) {
      echo "Author:{$row['tutorial_author']}  <br> ".
      "Count: {$row['tutorial_count']} <br> ".
      "--------------------------------<br>";
   } 
   echo "Fetched data successfully\n";
   mysql_close($conn);
?>


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