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# Row number in a SELECT statement

How can you get the record number in a select statement? For example, I want to do something like this --

`select recordnumber, * from table`

so that the result returns a numbered list.

Short answer: apply the row number to the rows in the result set in your application program. This provides the flexibility to change the sequence of the query, or the fields it's selecting on, with no further intervention.

Longer answer: you can do it in SQL, but it isn't terribly efficient. It's called a ranking query.

Here's a sample table:

```PERSONS
fname lname  age  IQ
mary  smith  24   109
jane  doe    17   123
bill  adams  32   111
fred  brown  28   132
tom   white  31   125```

To start, let's just list these people by increasing age (youngest first) --

``` select fname, lname, age, IQ
from persons
order by age

fname lname  age  IQ
jane  doe    17   123
mary  smith  24   109
fred  brown  28   132
tom   white  31   125
bill  adams  32   111```

Now here's the ranking query by increasing age --

```select (select count(*) from persons)
- count(*) + 1 as rank
, t1.fname, t1.lname, t1.age, t1.IQ
from persons as t1
, persons as t2
where t1.age <= t2.age
group by t1.fname, t1.lname, t1.age, t1.IQ
order by 1

rank fname lname  age  IQ
1   jane  doe    17   123
2   mary  smith  24   109
3   fred  brown  28   132
4   tom   white  31   125
5   bill  adams  32   111```

How does the ranking query work? For every row, it counts all the rows that have an equal or greater age, and subtracts the result from the number of rows in the table plus 1, which for our example table is 5 + 1 = 6. In the case of Mary Smith, there are 4 rows that have an equal or greater age (including Mary's row itself), so the rank is 2.

Let's try another example. Let's rank them by decreasing IQ (smartest first) --

```select (select count(*) from persons)
- count(*) + 1 as rank
, t1.fname, t1.lname, t1.age, t1.IQ
from persons as t1
, persons as t2
where t1.IQ >= t2.IQ
group by t1.fname, t1.lname, t1.age, t1.IQ
order by 1

rank fname lname  age  IQ
1   fred  brown  28   132
2   tom   white  31   125
3   jane  doe    17   123
4   bill  adams  32   111
5   mary  smith  24   109```

Notice that this time, the join condition is reversed, because we're after the rank of a descending number. However, the ORDER BY is still on rank, increasing.

This type of join is called a theta join (joining a variable number of rows based on an inequality). As you can imagine, the database has to have a good optimizer for it to perform efficiently for large tables. Hence the short answer: do it in your application program if you can. It's simpler, too, because you don't have to keep re-thinking which way the inequality is supposed to go.

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This was last published in May 2002

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