With MSSQL it's easy, the @ marking the start of all variable names allows the parser to know that it is a variable not a column.

This is useful for things like injecting constant values where a select is providing the input to an insert table when copying from a staging table.

declare @foo varchar(50) = 'bar';
select @foo;

How do you express this for postgres?

2 Answers 2


PostgreSQL isn't as flexible in where and how it allows usage of variables. The closest thing for what you're trying to accomplish likely would be surrounding it in a DO block like so:

DO $$
  foo := 'bar' ;
  SELECT foo;
END $$;

Not this is context dependent, and you can find more information in this StackOverflow answer.

Additionally you can create a function that declares variables and returns a value like so:

CREATE FUNCTION example_function () RETURNS text AS '
    -- Declare a constant integer with a
    -- default value of 5.
    five CONSTANT INTEGER := 5;
    -- Declare an integer with a default
    -- value of 100 that cannot be NULL.
    ten INTEGER NOT NULL := 10;
    -- Declare a character with
    -- a default value of "a".
    letter CHAR DEFAULT ''a'';
  return letter;

More information on this approach here.

  • 1
    This doesn't work, an anonymous DO block cannot return anything. Jan 15, 2021 at 6:53
  • @a_horse_with_no_name I'm not a PostgreSQL expert so I could be wrong, but the answer I linked and referenced it from with 139 upvoted is also wrong?
    – J.D.
    Jan 15, 2021 at 13:57
  • Well, that answer is wrong as well and I am surprised it got so many upvotes despite throwing the error mentioned in one of the comments: "ERROR: query has no destination for result data" Jan 15, 2021 at 14:10
  • @a_horse_with_no_name Interesting, thanks. I'll look for an alternative to correct my answer.
    – J.D.
    Jan 15, 2021 at 14:19
  • 1
    Actually it does work for my intended use case. The select statement will be providing rows to an insert statement and in fact this answer leads directly to a useful outcome, so I'll accept it provided JD qualifies it with the extra info and mentions the use case. Also, I have since found that if I create a function around the code this can't return a value BS goes away.
    – Peter Wone
    Jan 16, 2021 at 11:44

SQL has no support for variables, this is only possible in procedural languages (in Postgres that would e.g. be PL/pgSQL).

The way to to this in plain SQL is to use a CTE (which is also a cross platform solution and not tied to any SQL dialect):

with vars (foo) as (
  values ('bar')
select foo 
from vars;

like injecting constant values where a select is providing the input to an insert table when copying from a staging table.

Well you don't need a variable for that:

insert into target_table (c1, c2, c3)
select col_1, col_2, 'some value'
from staging_table;
  • Does your second expression work if 'some value' is text? I think it just gets interpreted as a column, no?
    – MikeB2019x
    Mar 8 at 21:58
  • 'some value' is a text (string) value Mar 8 at 22:44

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