# Functions (Scalar/Single Row)

SQL provides several built-in scalar functions. Each scalar function takes one value as input and returns one value as output for each row in a result set.

You use scalar functions wherever an expression is allowed within a T-SQL statement.

# Character modifications

Character modifying functions (opens new window) include converting characters to upper or lower case characters, converting numbers to formatted numbers, performing character manipulation, etc.

The lower(char) function converts the given character parameter to be lower-cased characters.

SELECT customer_id, lower(customer_last_name) FROM customer;

would return the customer's last name changed from "SMITH" to "smith".

# Date And Time

In SQL, you use date and time data types to store calendar information. These data types include the time, date, smalldatetime, datetime, datetime2, and datetimeoffset. Each data type has a specific format.

Data type Format
time hh:mm:ss[.nnnnnnn]
smalldatetime YYYY-MM-DD hh:mm:ss
datetime YYYY-MM-DD hh:mm:ss[.nnn]
datetime2 YYYY-MM-DD hh:mm:ss[.nnnnnnn]
datetimeoffset YYYY-MM-DD hh:mm:ss[.nnnnnnn] [+/-]hh:mm

The DATENAME function returns the name or value of a specific part of the date.

SELECT DATENAME (weekday,'2017-01-14') as Datename


You use the GETDATE function to determine the current date and time of the computer running the current SQL instance. This function doesn't include the time zone difference.

SELECT GETDATE() as Systemdate 

2017-01-14 11:11:47.7230728

The DATEDIFF function returns the difference between two dates.

In the syntax, datepart is the parameter that specifies which part of the date you want to use to calculate difference. The datepart can be year, month, week, day, hour, minute, second, or millisecond. You then specify the start date in the startdate parameter and the end date in the enddate parameter for which you want to find the difference.

SELECT SalesOrderID, DATEDIFF(day, OrderDate, ShipDate) 
AS 'Processing time'
FROM Sales.SalesOrderHeader

SalesOrderID Processing time
43659 7
43660 7
43661 7
43662 7

The DATEADD function enables you to add an interval to part of a specific date.

SELECT DATEADD (day, 20, '2017-01-14') AS Added20MoreDays

2017-02-03 00:00:00.000

# Configuration and Conversion Function

An example of a configuration function in SQL is the @@SERVERNAME function. This function provides the name of the local server that's running SQL.



In SQL, most data conversions occur implicitly, without any user intervention.

To perform any conversions that can't be completed implicitly, you can use the CAST or CONVERT functions.

The CAST function syntax is simpler than the CONVERT function syntax, but is limited in what it can do.

In here, we use both the CAST and CONVERT functions to convert the datetime data type to the varchar data type.

The CAST function always uses the default style setting. For example, it will represent dates and times using the format YYYY-MM-DD.

The CONVERT function uses the date and time style you specify. In this case, 3 specifies the date format dd/mm/yy.

USE AdventureWorks2012
SELECT FirstName + ' ' + LastName + ' was hired on ' +
       CAST(HireDate AS varchar(20)) AS 'Cast',
       FirstName + ' ' + LastName + ' was hired on ' +
       CONVERT(varchar, HireDate, 3) AS 'Convert'
FROM Person.Person AS p
JOIN HumanResources.Employee AS e
ON p.BusinessEntityID = e.BusinessEntityID

Cast Convert
David Hamiltion was hired on 2003-02-04 David Hamiltion was hired on 04/02/03

Another example of a conversion function is the PARSE function. This function converts a string to a specified data type.

In the syntax for the function, you specify the string that must be converted, the AS keyword, and then the required data type. Optionally, you can also specify the culture in which the string value should be formatted. If you don't specify this, the language for the session is used.

If the string value can't be converted to a numeric, date, or time format, it will result in an error. You'll then need to use CAST or CONVERT for the conversion.

SELECT PARSE('Monday, 13 August 2012' AS datetime2 USING 'en-US') AS 'Date in English'

Date in English
2012-08-13 00:00:00.0000000

# Logical and Mathmetical Function

# SQL has two logical functions – CHOOSE and IIF.

The CHOOSE function returns an item from a list of values, based on its position in the list. This position is specified by the index.

In the syntax, the index parameter specifies the item and is a whole number, or integer. The val_1 … val_n parameter identifies the list of values.

SELECT CHOOSE(2, 'Human Resources', 'Sales', 'Admin', 'Marketing' ) AS Result;


In this example, you use the CHOOSE function to return the second entry in a list of departments.

The IIF function returns one of two values, based on a particular condition. If the condition is true, it will return true value. Otherwise it will return a false value.

In the syntax, the boolean_expression parameter specifies the Boolean expression. The true_value parameter specifies the value that should be returned if the boolean_expression evaluates to true and the false_value parameter specifies the value that should be returned if the boolean_expression evaluates to false.

SELECT BusinessEntityID, SalesYTD, 
       IIF(SalesYTD > 200000, 'Bonus', 'No Bonus') AS 'Bonus?'
FROM Sales.SalesPerson

BusinessEntityID SalesYTD Bonus?
274 559697.5639 Bonus
275 3763178.1787 Bonus
285 172524.4512 No Bonus

In this example, you use the IIF function to return one of two values. If a sales person's year-to-date sales are above 200,000, this person will be eligible for a bonus. Values below 200,000 mean that employees don't qualify for bonuses.

# SQL includes several mathematical functions that you can use to perform calculations on input values and return numeric results.

One example is the SIGN function, which returns a value indicating the sign of an expression. The value of -1 indicates a negative expression, the value of +1 indicates a positive expression, and 0 indicates zero.

SELECT SIGN(-20) AS 'Sign'


In the example, the input is a negative number, so the Results pane lists the result -1.

Another mathematical function is the POWER function. This function provides the value of an expression raised to a specified power.

In the syntax, the float_expression parameter specifies the expression, and the y parameter specifies the power to which you want to raise the expression.

SELECT POWER(50, 3) AS Result


# Syntax

  • CAST ( expression AS data_type [ ( length ) ] )
  • CONVERT ( data_type [ ( length ) ] , expression [ , style ] )
  • PARSE ( string_value AS data_type [ USING culture ] )
  • DATENAME ( datepart , date )
  • GETDATE ( )
  • DATEDIFF ( datepart , startdate , enddate )
  • DATEADD (datepart , number , date )
  • CHOOSE ( index, val_1, val_2 [, val_n ] )
  • IIF ( boolean_expression, true_value, false_value )
  • SIGN ( numeric_expression )
  • POWER ( float_expression , y )

# Remarks

Scalar or Single-Row functions are used to operate each row of data in the result set, as opposed to aggregate functions (opens new window) which operate on the entire result set.

There are ten types of scalar functions.

  1. Configuration functions provide information about the configuration of the current SQL instance.
  2. Conversion functions convert data into the correct data type for a given operation. For example, these types of functions can reformat information by converting a string to a date or number to allow two different types to be compared.
  3. Date and time functions manipulate fields containing date and time values. They can return numeric, date, or string values. For example, you can use a function to retrieve the current day of the week or year or to retrieve only the year from the date.

The values returned by date and time functions depend on the date and time set for the operating system of the computer running the SQL instance.

  1. Logical function that performs operations using logical operators. It evaluates a set of conditions and returns a single result.
  2. Mathematical functions perform mathematical operations, or calculations, on numeric expressions. This type of function returns a single numeric value.
  3. Metadata functions retrieve information about a specified database, such as its name and database objects.
  4. Security functions provide information that you can use to manage the security of a database, such as information about database users and roles.
  5. String functions (opens new window) perform operations on string values and return either numeric or string values.

Using string functions, you can, for example, combine data, extract a substring, compare strings, or convert a string to all uppercase or lowercase characters.

  1. System functions perform operations and return information about values, objects, and settings for the current SQL instance
  2. System statistical functions provide various statistics about the current SQL instance – for example, so that you can monitor the system's current performance levels.