Characteristics of SQL

SQL, or Structured Query Language, is a programming language used for managing and manipulating relational databases. It is the standard language for relational database management systems, such as MySQL, Oracle, and Microsoft SQL Server. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of SQL and how they make it a powerful tool for working with databases.

Introduction to SQL

SQL is a declarative programming language, meaning that it is used to describe the desired outcome rather than the specific steps to achieve it. This makes it a powerful tool for working with databases because it allows users to focus on the data they want to retrieve or modify, rather than the specific steps to do so.

SQL is also a non-procedural language, meaning that it does not require users to specify the specific steps to be taken in order to retrieve or modify data. Instead, SQL uses a set of commands and statements to specify the desired outcome, and the database management system (DBMS) takes care of the rest.

Data Definition Language (DDL)

The Data Definition Language (DDL) is used to define the structure of a database. It is used to create, alter, and delete database objects such as tables, indexes, and constraints.

Creating a Table

CREATE TABLE Employee ( EmployeeID INT PRIMARY KEY, LastName VARCHAR(255) NOT NULL, FirstName VARCHAR(255), Address VARCHAR(255), City VARCHAR(255), State VARCHAR(255), Zip INT );

This SQL statement creates a new table called "Employee" with the specified columns and their data types. The PRIMARY KEY constraint on the "EmployeeID" column ensures that no two rows in the table have the same value for this column. The NOT NULL constraint on the "LastName" column ensures that this column cannot contain null values.

Alter a Table

ALTER TABLE Employee ADD Salary INT;

This SQL statement adds a new column called "Salary" to the "Employee" table.

Delete a Table

DROP TABLE Employee;

This SQL statement deletes the "Employee" table from the database.

Data Manipulation Language (DML)

The Data Manipulation Language (DML) is used to insert, update, and retrieve data from a database. It is the most commonly used part of SQL and is used to perform the majority of database operations.

Inserting Data

INSERT INTO Employee (EmployeeID, LastName, FirstName, Address, City, State, Zip) VALUES (1, 'Smith', 'John', '123 Main St', 'Anytown', 'US', 12345);

This SQL statement inserts a new row into the "Employee" table with the specified values for each column.

Updating Data

UPDATE Employee SET Address = '456 Park Ave', City = 'MyCity' WHERE EmployeeID = 1;

This SQL statement updates the "Address" and "City" columns of the row where the "EmployeeID" is 1 in the "Employee" table.

Retrieving Data

SELECT LastName, FirstName, Address FROM Employee WHERE City = 'MyCity';

This SQL statement retrieves the "LastName", "FirstName", and "Address" columns of all rows where the "City" is 'MyCity' from the "Employee" table.

Data Control Language (DCL)

The Data Control Language (DCL) is used to control access to the data in a database. It includes commands such as GRANT and REVOKE, which are used to grant or revoke access to specific users or roles.


This SQL statement grants the "User1" user the ability to SELECT and UPDATE data in the "Employee" table.


This SQL statement revokes the "User1" user's ability to SELECT and UPDATE data in the "Employee" table.

Transactional Control

SQL supports transactional control, which allows a group of SQL statements to be executed as a single unit of work. This ensures that the database remains in a consistent state, even in the event of an error or interruption.

BEGIN TRANSACTION; UPDATE Employee SET Salary = 50000 WHERE EmployeeID = 1; COMMIT;

This SQL block starts a transaction, updates the "Salary" of the "Employee" where "EmployeeID" is 1, and then commits the transaction, ensuring that the update is made permanent in the database.

Concurrency Control

SQL also supports concurrency control, which is used to manage access to the data in a database by multiple users. This ensures that multiple users can access and modify the data simultaneously without conflicts.

SQL provides two types of concurrency control: pessimistic and optimistic. Pessimistic concurrency control locks the data being accessed, while optimistic concurrency control checks for conflicts before committing the changes.

Real-world examples of SQL in action

SQL is widely used in many industries for managing and manipulating data. Here are a few examples of how SQL is used in real-world scenarios −

  • In the retail industry, SQL is used to manage inventory and sales data. Retail companies use SQL to track sales trends, analyze customer behavior, and manage inventory levels.

  • In the finance industry, SQL is used to manage financial data, such as account balances, transactions, and credit scores. Banks and financial institutions use SQL to track customer information, monitor transactions, and detect fraudulent activity.

  • In the healthcare industry, SQL is used to manage patient information, such as medical history, prescriptions, and lab results. Hospitals and clinics use SQL to track patient information, manage appointments, and analyze patient outcomes.


SQL is a powerful programming language for managing and manipulating relational databases. Its characteristics, such as its declarative and non-procedural nature, make it a valuable tool for working with data. Additionally, its support for transactional control and concurrency control ensures that the data remains consistent and can be accessed by multiple users simultaneously. SQL is widely used across many industries and is an essential tool for businesses of all sizes.

Updated on: 16-Jan-2023


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