Using Postgres 9.4, I'm interested in having an array of integers like user_ids_who_like and provide an array of users (like user_ids_i_am_following) to sort that intersection.

Something like:

select * 
from items 
where [there is an intersection between 
       user_ids_who_like with user_ids_i_am_following] 
order by intersection(user_ids_who_like).count

Is grouping and ordering by an array intersection possible?

Example data:

name          | user_ids_who_like
'birds'       | '{1,3,5,8}'
'planes'      | '{2,3,4,11}'
'spaceships'  | '{3,4,6}'

For a given user_ids_who_i_follow = [3,4,11], can I do something like:

select * from items
where <user_ids_who_like intersects with user_ids_who_i_follow>
order by <count of that intersection>

Desired result:

name          | user_ids_who_like  | count
'planes'      |  '{2,3,4,11}'      | 3
'spaceships'  |  '{3,4,6}'         | 2
'birds'       |  '{1,3,5,8}'       | 1

One possibility seems to be something like this:

select id, user_ids_who_like, (user_ids_who_like & '{514, 515}'::int[]) as jt  
from queryables 
where user_ids_who_like && '{514, 515}' 
order by icount(user_ids_who_like & '{514, 515}'::int[]) desc;

But I can't tell if this style (using the intarray extension rather than native array functions and operators) is outdated; any feedback from more sophisticated users here? It's not clear to me how to do the intersection of two arrays using the methods and operators.

  • 1
    intarray still has its use cases, this might be one of them. The extension has a few funtions, too, which are very handy. Nov 27, 2015 at 14:28

1 Answer 1


With tools of the basic Postgres installation only, you might unnest() and count in a LATERAL subquery:

SELECT i.name, i.user_ids_who_like, x.ct
FROM   items i
     , LATERAL (
   SELECT count(*) AS ct
   FROM   unnest(i.user_ids_who_like) uid
   WHERE  uid = ANY('{3,4,11}'::int[])
   ) x
ORDER  BY x.ct DESC;  -- add PK as tiebreaker for stable sort order

We don't need a LEFT JOIN to preserve rows without match because count() always returns a row - 0 for "no match".


Assuming integer arrays without NULL values or duplicates, the intersection operator & of the intarray module would be much simpler:

SELECT name, user_ids_who_like
     , array_length(user_ids_who_like & '{3,4,11}', 1) AS ct
FROM   items

I added NULLS LAST to sort empty arrays last - after the reminder from your later question:

Install intarray once per database for this.

Use the overlap opertaor && in the WHERE clause to rule out rows without any overlap:

FROM   ...
WHERE user_ids_who_like && '{3,4,11}'

Why? Per documentation:

intarray provides index support for the &&, @>, <@, and @@ operators, as well as regular array equality.

Applies to standard array operators in a similar fashion. Details:

Alternatively and more radically, a normalized schema with a separate table instead of the array column user_ids_who_like would occupy more disk space, but offer simple solutions with plain btree indexes for these problems.


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