I'm trying to run the following query, but it keeps getting "reduced" and failing. Cannot get MySQL to provide any information as to why.

Here's the query:

SELECT * FROM animals WHERE name IN(SELECT @animal_names);

Here's the information underneath the variable and table.


mysql> mysql> SELECT * FROM animals;
| id | name    |
|  1 | dog     |
|  2 | cat     |
|  3 | penguin |
|  4 | lax     |
|  5 | whale   |
|  6 | ostrich |
6 rows in set (0.00 sec)


mysql> SELECT GROUP_CONCAT(QUOTE(name)) INTO @animal_names FROM animals WHERE name LIKE '%%';
Query OK, 1 row affected (0.01 sec)

mysql> mysql> SELECT @animal_names; +-----------------------------------------------+ | @animal_names | +-----------------------------------------------+ | 'dog','cat','penguin','lax','whale','ostrich' | +-----------------------------------------------+ 1 row in set (0.00 sec)


mysql> SELECT * FROM animals WHERE name IN(SELECT @animal_names);
Empty set (0.00 sec)

mysql> EXPLAIN SELECT * FROM animals WHERE name IN(SELECT @animal_names); +----+-------------+---------+------+---------------+------+---------+------+------+-------------+ | id | select_type | table | type | possible_keys | key | key_len | ref | rows | Extra | +----+-------------+---------+------+---------------+------+---------+------+------+-------------+ | 1 | SIMPLE | animals | ALL | NULL | NULL | NULL | NULL | 6 | Using where | +----+-------------+---------+------+---------------+------+---------+------+------+-------------+ 1 row in set, 1 warning (0.00 sec)

Note (Code 1249): Select 2 was reduced during optimization

MySQL refuses to tell me why the "SELECT @animal_ids" is not working! Is there some MySQL variable that needs to be adjusted for that subquery to work?

This is a test sample. I'm trying to do this on a larger scale with about 800 values in a list. I want the list in a variable so I don't have to do A SELECT query multiple times to DELETE, INSERT, SELECT the values I need across multiple databases and tables.

Obviously this can be easily done with a Python or Golang script, but I'm trying to do this in MySQL directly. While I appreciate it, please refrain from offering script-based solutions.

4 Answers 4


The variable contains ONE string, but to work properly the subquery in IN() needs to return different items as multiple rows.

SELECT * FROM animals WHERE name IN(SELECT @animal_names);

is translated to

SELECT * FROM animals WHERE name IN(SELECT '\'dog\',\'cat\',\'penguin\',\'lax\',\'whale\',\'ostrich\'');

MySQL variable cannot hold table resultset so this is not directly possible. You would have to create a subquery to extract separate values to rows by joining some counter table and parsing the string. Or you may use dynamic sql which allows to take a string and parse it - that way you would define new variable containing entire select with the IN list filled by your current variable, and then prepare a statement from that string representation (sort of SQL eval). But probably best would be to just use the query direcly as a subquery instead of filling the variable. Newer version should materialize such independent subquery automatically. For good performance on older versions, you might want to create a temporary table instead and use JOIN and not IN.

Just a note - GROUP_CONCAT() is not very safe as there is a limit (variable) to how long string it can return and some results may be lost (with a warning) when the limit is exceeded.

  • You can set your own limit to avoid losing results: SET SESSION group_concat_max_len = 10000;
    – Amine
    May 13 at 13:24

You could do:

FROM animals
WHERE CONCAT(',', @animal_names, ',') LIKE CONCAT('%,\'', name, '\',%');

It won't perform fast, but it'll work.

  • May fail if the lists are sorted differently.
    – Rick James
    Apr 27, 2016 at 17:43
  • @RickJames It could only fail if the elements in the list could have commas next to apostrophes Apr 27, 2016 at 22:44

Build a Stored Routine; in it use CONCAT to construct the SELECT with the @variable stitched in; prepare and execute.

Alternatively, if you are using an application language such as PHP, do the stitching in that language.

SELECT * FROM animals WHERE FIND_IN_SET(name,(SELECT @animal_names));

See the FIND_IN_SET documentation

  • This is what I was trying to do.
    – Alexk
    Apr 29, 2016 at 20:25

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