12.2.10.6. Subqueries with EXISTS or NOT EXISTS

If a subquery returns any rows at all, EXISTS subquery is TRUE, and NOT EXISTS subquery is FALSE. For example:

SELECT column1 FROM t1 WHERE EXISTS (SELECT * FROM t2);

Traditionally, an EXISTS subquery starts with SELECT *, but it could begin with SELECT 5 or SELECT column1 or anything at all. MySQL ignores the SELECT list in such a subquery, so it makes no difference.

For the preceding example, if t2 contains any rows, even rows with nothing but NULL values, the EXISTS condition is TRUE. This is actually an unlikely example because a [NOT] EXISTS subquery almost always contains correlations. Here are some more realistic examples:

  • What kind of store is present in one or more cities?

    SELECT DISTINCT store_type FROM stores
      WHERE EXISTS (SELECT * FROM cities_stores
                    WHERE cities_stores.store_type = stores.store_type);
    
  • What kind of store is present in no cities?

    SELECT DISTINCT store_type FROM stores
      WHERE NOT EXISTS (SELECT * FROM cities_stores
                        WHERE cities_stores.store_type = stores.store_type);
    
  • What kind of store is present in all cities?

    SELECT DISTINCT store_type FROM stores s1
      WHERE NOT EXISTS (
        SELECT * FROM cities WHERE NOT EXISTS (
          SELECT * FROM cities_stores
           WHERE cities_stores.city = cities.city
           AND cities_stores.store_type = stores.store_type));
    

The last example is a double-nested NOT EXISTS query. That is, it has a NOT EXISTS clause within a NOT EXISTS clause. Formally, it answers the question “does a city exist with a store that is not in Stores”? But it is easier to say that a nested NOT EXISTS answers the question “is x TRUE for all y?

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