I want the lexemes of a tsvector array placed in a column, one per row. I can first unnest the array and then the resulting tsvectors with:

SELECT (unnest(unnest(my_array))).lexeme
FROM my_table
WHERE id = 1;

which gives:


I noticed, however, that if I try to do the same in the FROM clause:

SELECT lexeme
FROM unnest(
    (SELECT unnest(my_array) FROM my_table WHERE id = 1)

I get:

ERROR: more than one row returned by a subquery used as an expression

So, I end up doing this:

SELECT lexeme
    SELECT (unnest(col1)).lexeme
    FROM (
        SELECT unnest(my_array) 
        FROM my_table 
        WHERE id = 1 
    ) AS t(col1)
) AS t2;

And I get the original result. But this is verbose. So, I'd like to know:

  1. Why does unnest() require a single input row in the FROM clause, but doesn't in the SELECT clause?

  2. Is there a more concise, less convoluted way than my code, to get the column of lexemes in the FROM clause?

  3. Is there a difference in performance between unnesting in the SELECT clause, versus doing it in the FROM clause?

  • 1
    Possibly relevant stackoverflow.com/a/23004157/14868997. You should favour two LATERAL unnest clauses over using them in the select Sep 5, 2021 at 5:00
  • @Charlieface It's very relevant. It's the answer to question 2: SELECT lexeme FROM my_table, unnest(array_column) AS vector, unnest(vector) WHERE product_id = 1; If you post it as an answer, I will mark it accepted. Many thanks. Now only questions 1 and 3 remain for the sake of clarification.
    – ARX
    Sep 5, 2021 at 15:48
  • @ARX: question #1 is not really related to unnest. Consider select (select 1 union select 2) which would fail with the same error message (more than one row returned by a subquery used as an expression) Sep 5, 2021 at 16:31

1 Answer 1


You're not really supposed to use set-returning operators in the select, even though PostgreSQL allows it.

It's much better to place them in the from and use a lateral join

SELECT lexeme
FROM my_table t,
  lateral unnest(array_column) AS vector,
  lateral unnest(vector)
WHERE t.product_id = 1;

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