The curious case of trailing spaces in SQL

A while ago I was quite surprised to see that the following query returns 1 instead of 0:

[code lang=”sql”]
SELECT COUNT(*) WHERE N’Tim’ = N’Tim ‘; — notice the trailing space

Apparently this is just standard behaviour. Here is an extract from sql1992.txt (Section 8.2 Paragraph 3):

     3) The comparison of two character strings is determined as fol-

            a) If the length in characters of X is not equal to the length
              in characters of Y, then the shorter string is effectively
              replaced, for the purposes of comparison, with a copy of
              itself that has been extended to the length of the longer
              string by concatenation on the right of one or more pad char-
              acters, where the pad character is chosen based on CS. If
              CS has the NO PAD attribute, then the pad character is an
              implementation-dependent character different from any char-
              acter in the character set of X and Y that collates less
              than any string under CS. Otherwise, the pad character is a

            b) The result of the comparison of X and Y is given by the col-
              lating sequence CS.

            c) Depending on the collating sequence, two strings may com-
              pare as equal even if they are of different lengths or con-
              tain different sequences of characters. When the operations
              MAX, MIN, DISTINCT, references to a grouping column, and the
              UNION, EXCEPT, and INTERSECT operators refer to character
              strings, the specific value selected by these operations from
              a set of such equal values is implementation-dependent.

One thought on “The curious case of trailing spaces in SQL

  1. Hi Tim,

    Thanks for the post, and thanks for pointing me to the post! Guess the offline network is still useful!


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