I have to pull out a range of entries from a database, all based around two pieces of data. In itself that's fine. An example of the data is:

Record   ID    Tags
1        1423  Day, Sun, Warm
2        1423  Day, Sun, Wet
3        1742  Night, Warm
4        2743  Night, Warm, Dry, Stars
5        4832  Sunrise, Bright, Clear, Cool

Now in the above data, the ID is an internal company ID, but Record is a unique DB ID. There are 2,500 rows of similar data in the database, with other data that's not related to this query. Now we need to pull the data in the following style, written here in a symbolic, rather than specific SQL so people can understand it. I've included brackets to emphasis which parts must match:

WHERE (ID=1423 AND tags contains Warm) 
OR WHERE (ID=2743 AND Tags contains Dry) 
OR WHERE (ID=4832 AND Tags contains Cold)

The question is how do I get the SQL statement to work right? I've tried

WHERE ID=2743 AND Tags LIKE '%Warm%' 
    OR ID=4832 AND Tags LIKE '%Cool%'

But it doesn't seem to return the correct records. I have a specific query which I know will return 5 records, but every time it returns more, including ones that don't match. I'm thinking the SQL is mixing up, for example, where ID=2743 AND (tags like warm or 2743) AND Tags like dry or 4832 etc...

Can anyone point me in the right direction. In essence it is multiple where statements, where each statement has to match an ID and have a 'LIKE' tag. but the statement can match one or more of the given WHERE statements. Does that make sense?

  • 1
    You shouldn't be storing comma separated values in a column in the first place. Nov 17, 2012 at 14:01
  • 1
    Just apply the brackets in your pseudo code to your actual code. Nov 17, 2012 at 14:03
  • 3
    Without seeing your actual query and returned results it is har to tell anything. However, AND has a higher precedence over OR, which means in a AND b OR c AND d a&b and c&d are evaluated first and get then ORd. Anyway, if you suspect that your expression isn't quite that you want, you can always use parentheses to group subexpressions. That way it can even be more readable.
    – dezso
    Nov 17, 2012 at 14:04
  • 1
    @horse_with_name: yes appreciate that, but I've got to keep with the existing structure!
    – TIW
    Nov 17, 2012 at 14:21
  • @Dezso & Martin: Many thanks, i've learnt something today! Didn't realise you could use parentheses in SQL code. Thanks Guys - i'll report back!
    – TIW
    Nov 17, 2012 at 14:21

2 Answers 2


As Martin Smith and dezso commented, you can add parentheses to your query to be explicit in your intent since they can change how the where clause is evaluated:

WHERE ((ID = 1423) AND (Tags LIKE '%Warm%'))
OR ((ID = 2743) AND (Tags LIKE '%Dry%'))
OR ((ID = 4832) AND (Tags LIKE '%Cool%'))

This returns a 3-record result set containing 1423, 2743 & 4832 from your example data.

Parentheses can also make your SQL queries more readable and maintainable.

  • A little to add to this, if it were me, also consider removing limitations with case-sensitiveness. Try UCASE(), LTRIM(), and RTRIM() to compare like with like.
    – Fandango68
    Feb 27, 2018 at 0:27

With just 2500 records using LIKE search should be sufficient but if the number of records will grow you may encounter serious performance problems.

Proper solution would be to add table 'tags' which will keep list of unique tag's values and then add another table which will keep list of tags for given record in the base table creating many-to-many relationship.

You can also keep current structure and just add a fulltext index on the 'Tags' column with such index your query would be something like this

WHERE ((ID = 1423) AND (MATCH (Tags) AGAINST ('Warm')))
OR ((ID = 2743) AND (MATCH (Tags) AGAINST ('Dry')))
OR ((ID = 4832) AND (MATCH (Tags) AGAINST ('Cool')))
  • 1
    FULLTEXT, by default, will not match 3-letter words ('Dry'). Another approach is to build a table that maps Tags to IDs.
    – Rick James
    Nov 20, 2012 at 1:53

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