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How does '+' operator behave in following statement?

select + 'taco';  --Result is 'taco'

Is it doing string concatenation with first string blank ('' + 'taco'), or does it mean something else?

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Concatenating nothing with something produces the same something. If you make a meal of just cheese and add nothing else to it, what do you have? The fact your empty hand moved towards the cheese doesn't change that. – Phil Apr 29 '14 at 1:06
Then how about select 'taco' +; ? Why is it not equivalent to + 'taco'? – Binaya Regmi Apr 29 '14 at 1:11
Taco with or without cheese? – Phil Apr 29 '14 at 1:13
Or cheese with or without taco, but where is the cheese? – Binaya Regmi Apr 29 '14 at 1:19

2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

How does '+' operator behave in following statement?

It is parsed as a unary plus, and ignored, as described in this Connect item. While not strictly correct, the behaviour will not be changed because it would "introduce unnecessary changes for application code" and has "backward compatibility implications".

(Originally posted as a comment to the question by Martin Smith)

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The string concatenation operator "+", by definition, "concatenates two or more" strings.

This query executes successfully because the implied second string is the non-null concatenation identity (empty string).

This works in the same way as the operator in select +1; the implied second number is the non-null addition identity '0'.

The syntax is allowed because of the need for expressions such as select -1. Neither select 'taco' + nor select 1+ will execute, but only because of parser rules.

Consider the Execution Plans generated by these SQL Statements (I added top(1) to obtain a plan):

select top (1) + 'taco'

select top (1) '' + 'taco'

select top (1) 'taco'

The execution plans are identical. The "Compute Scalar" operator does not reveal any concatenation activity. The Query Optimizer simplifies the identity concatenation expression before execution.

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That explains. The trailing white space is ignored, so cannot treated as empty string in the concatenate operator. That means select + 'taco' + + '' is a valid syntax too. Thanks. – Binaya Regmi Apr 29 '14 at 2:10
I say the syntax is allowed because the parser's programmers were lazy. Another, even more silly example: SELECT 'tako'+++++++++++++++' with cheese'; – ypercube Apr 29 '14 at 9:04
-1 This answer is based on assumptions and is wrong. The comment of @Marin Smith (and so the community wiki answer of Paul White) gives the right answer to this question and proves it with a reference. – miracle173 May 3 '14 at 12:12

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