A Transact-SQL local variable is an object that can hold a single data value of a specific type. Variables in batches and scripts are typically used:
As a counter either to count the number of times a loop is performed or to control how many times the loop is performed.
To hold a data value to be tested by a control-of-flow statement.
To save a data value to be returned by a stored procedure return code or function return value.
The names of some Transact-SQL system functions begin with two at signs (@@). Although in earlier versions of Microsoft SQL Server, the @@functions are referred to as global variables, they are not variables and do not have the same behaviors as variables. The @@functions are system functions, and their syntax usage follows the rules for functions.
The following script creates a small test table and populates it with 26 rows. The script uses a variable to do three things:
Control how many rows are inserted by controlling how many times the loop is executed.
Supply the value inserted into the integer column.
Function as part of the expression that generates letters to be inserted into the character column.
-- Create the table. CREATE TABLE TestTable (cola int, colb char(3)); GO SET NOCOUNT ON; GO -- Declare the variable to be used. DECLARE @MyCounter int; -- Initialize the variable. SET @MyCounter = 0; -- Test the variable to see if the loop is finished. WHILE (@MyCounter < 26) BEGIN; -- Insert a row into the table. INSERT INTO TestTable VALUES -- Use the variable to provide the integer value -- for cola. Also use it to generate a unique letter -- for each row. Use the ASCII function to get the -- integer value of 'a'. Add @MyCounter. Use CHAR to -- convert the sum back to the character @MyCounter -- characters after 'a'. (@MyCounter, CHAR( ( @MyCounter + ASCII('a') ) ) ); -- Increment the variable to count this iteration -- of the loop. SET @MyCounter = @MyCounter + 1; END; GO SET NOCOUNT OFF; GO -- View the data. SELECT cola, colb FROM TestTable; GO DROP TABLE TestTable; GO
Declaring a Transact-SQL Variable
The DECLARE statement initializes a Transact-SQL variable by:
Assigning a name. The name must have a single @ as the first character.
Assigning a system-supplied or user-defined data type and a length. For numeric variables, a precision and scale are also assigned. For variables of type XML, an optional schema collection may be assigned.
Setting the value to NULL.
For example, the following DECLARE statement creates a local variable named @mycounter with an int data type.
DECLARE @MyCounter int;
To declare more than one local variable, use a comma after the first local variable defined, and then specify the next local variable name and data type.
For example, the following DECLARE statement creates three local variables named @LastName, @FirstName and @StateProvince, and initializes each to NULL:
DECLARE @LastName nvarchar(30), @FirstName nvarchar(20), @StateProvince nchar(2);
The scope of a variable is the range of Transact-SQL statements that can reference the variable. The scope of a variable lasts from the point it is declared until the end of the batch or stored procedure in which it is declared. For example, the following script generates a syntax error because the variable is declared in one batch and referenced in another:
USE AdventureWorks2008R2; GO DECLARE @MyVariable int; SET @MyVariable = 1; -- Terminate the batch by using the GO keyword. GO -- @MyVariable has gone out of scope and no longer exists. -- This SELECT statement generates a syntax error because it is -- no longer legal to reference @MyVariable. SELECT BusinessEntityID, NationalIDNumber, JobTitle FROM HumanResources.Employee WHERE BusinessEntityID = @MyVariable;
Variables have local scope and are only visible within the batch or procedure where they are defined. In the following example, the nested scope created for execution of sp_executesql does not have access to the variable declared in the higher scope and returns and error.
DECLARE @MyVariable int; SET @MyVariable = 1; EXECUTE sp_executesql N'SELECT @MyVariable'; -- this produces an error
Setting a Value in a Transact-SQL Variable
When a variable is first declared, its value is set to NULL. To assign a value to a variable, use the SET statement. This is the preferred method of assigning a value to a variable. A variable can also have a value assigned by being referenced in the select list of a SELECT statement.
To assign a variable a value by using the SET statement, include the variable name and the value to assign to the variable. This is the preferred method of assigning a value to a variable. The following batch, for example, declares two variables, assigns values to them, and then uses them in the WHERE clause of a SELECT statement:
USE AdventureWorks2008R2; GO -- Declare two variables. DECLARE @FirstNameVariable nvarchar(50), @PostalCodeVariable nvarchar(15); -- Set their values. SET @FirstNameVariable = N'Amy'; SET @PostalCodeVariable = N'BA5 3HX'; -- Use them in the WHERE clause of a SELECT statement. SELECT LastName, FirstName, JobTitle, City, StateProvinceName, CountryRegionName FROM HumanResources.vEmployee WHERE FirstName = @FirstNameVariable OR PostalCode = @PostalCodeVariable; GO
A variable can also have a value assigned by being referenced in a select list. If a variable is referenced in a select list, it should be assigned a scalar value or the SELECT statement should only return one row. For example:
USE AdventureWorks2008R2; GO DECLARE @EmpIDVariable int; SELECT @EmpIDVariable = MAX(EmployeeID) FROM HumanResources.Employee; GO
If there are multiple assignment clauses in a single SELECT statement, SQL Server does not guarantee the order of evaluation of the expressions. Note that effects are only visible if there are references among the assignments.
If a SELECT statement returns more than one row and the variable references a nonscalar expression, the variable is set to the value returned for the expression in the last row of the result set. For example, in the following batch @EmpIDVariable is set to the BusinessEntityID value of the last row returned, which is 1:
USE AdventureWorks2008R2; GO DECLARE @EmpIDVariable int; SELECT @EmpIDVariable = BusinessEntityID FROM HumanResources.Employee ORDER BY BusinessEntityID DESC; SELECT @EmpIDVariable; GO