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SQL CREATE TABLE Statement

In this tutorial you'll learn how to create a table inside the database using SQL.

Creating a Table

In the previous chapter we have learned how to create a database on the database server. Now it's time to create some tables inside our database that will actually hold the data. A database table simply organizes the information into rows and columns.

The SQL CREATE TABLE statement is used to create a table.

Syntax

The basic syntax for creating a table can be given with:

CREATE TABLE table_name (
    column1_name data_type constraints,
    column2_name data_type constraints,
    ....
);

To understand this syntax easily, let's create a table in our demo database. Type the following statement on MySQL command-line tool and press enter:

  • -- Syntax for MySQL Database 
  • CREATE TABLE persons (
  •     id INT NOT NULL PRIMARY KEY AUTO_INCREMENT,
  •     name VARCHAR(50) NOT NULL,
  •     birth_date DATE,
  •     phone VARCHAR(15) NOT NULL UNIQUE
  • );
  •  
  • -- Syntax for SQL Server Database 
  • CREATE TABLE persons (
  •     id INT NOT NULL PRIMARY KEY IDENTITY(1,1),
  •     name VARCHAR(50) NOT NULL,
  •     birth_date DATE,
  •     phone VARCHAR(15) NOT NULL UNIQUE
  • );

The above statement creates a table named persons with five columns id, name, birth_date & phone. Notice that each column name is followed by a data type declaration; this declaration specifies that what type of data the column will store, whether integer, string, date, etc.

Some data types can be declared with a length parameter that indicates how many characters can be stored in the column. For example, VARCHAR(50) can hold up to 50 characters.

Note: The data type of the columns may vary depending on the database system. For example, MySQL and SQL Server supports INT data type for integer values, whereas the Oracle database supports NUMBER data type.

The following table summarizes the most commonly used data types supported by MySQL.

Data Type      
Description
INT Stores numeric values in the range of -2147483648 to 2147483647
DECIMAL Stores decimal values with exact precision.
CHAR Stores fixed-length strings with a maximum size of 255 characters.
VARCHAR Stores variable-length strings with a maximum size of 65,535 characters.
TEXT Stores strings with a maximum size of 65,535 characters.
DATE Stores date values in the YYYY-MM-DD format.
DATETIME Stores combined date/time values in the YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS format.
TIMESTAMP Stores timestamp values. TIMESTAMP values are stored as the number of seconds since the Unix epoch ('1970-01-01 00:00:01' UTC).

Please check out the reference section SQL DB data types for the detailed information on all the data types available in popular RDBMS like MySQL, SQL Server, etc.

There are a few additional constraints (also called modifiers) that are set for the table columns in the preceding statement. Constraints define rules regarding the values allowed in columns.

  • The NOT NULL constraint ensures that the field cannot accept a NULL value.
  • The PRIMARY KEY constraint marks the corresponding field as the table's primary key.
  • The AUTO_INCREMENT attribute is a MySQL extension to standard SQL, which tells MySQL to automatically assign a value to this field if it is left unspecified, by incrementing the previous value by 1. Only available for numeric fields.
  • The UNIQUE constraint ensures that each row for a column must have a unique value.

We will learn more about the SQL constraints in next chapter.

Note: The Microsoft SQL Server uses the IDENTITY property to perform an auto-increment feature. The default value is IDENTITY(1,1) which means the seed or starting value is 1, and the incremental value is also 1.

Tip: You can execute the commnad DESC table_name; to see the column information or structure of any table in MySQL and Oracle database, whereas EXEC sp_columns table_name; in SQL Server (replace the table_name with actual table name).


Create Table If Not Exists

If you try to create a table that is already exists inside the database you'll get an error message, to avoid this in MySQL you can use an optional clause IF NOT EXISTS as follow:

  • CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS persons (
  •     id INT NOT NULL PRIMARY KEY AUTO_INCREMENT,
  •     name VARCHAR(50) NOT NULL,
  •     birth_date DATE,
  •     phone VARCHAR(15) NOT NULL UNIQUE
  • );

Tip: If you want to see the list of tables inside the currently selected database, you can execute SHOW TABLES; statement on the MySQL command line.

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