My main skills are with SQL Server, but I have been asked to do some tuning of an Oracle query. I have written the following SQL:

declare @startDate int
select @startDate = 20110501

And I get this error:

declare @startDate int
select @startDate = 20110501
Error at line 1
ORA-06550: line 1, column 9:
PLS-00103: Encountered the symbol "@" when expecting one of the following:

   begin function package pragma procedure subtype type use
   <an identifier> <a double-quoted delimited-identifier> form
   current cursor

How do I declare and use variables in Oracle?

  • 3
    oracle is pure pain Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 20:57

3 Answers 3


Inside pl/sql block:

 startdate number;
  select 20110501 into startdate from dual;

using a bind variable:

var startdate number;
  select 20110501 into :startdate from dual;

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

SQL> print startdate


in a query:

select object_name 
from user_objects 
where created > to_date (:startdate,'yyyymmdd');  /*prefix the bind variable wïth ":" */
  • This unfortunately does not work for me. var my_num NUMBER; BEGIN SELECT 12345 INTO my_num FROM dual; END; / select * from my_table sa where sa.my_col = :my_num;
    – Matthew
    Commented Nov 15, 2018 at 17:59
  • what error do you get? (just tested and works)
    – user953
    Commented Nov 16, 2018 at 14:18
  • I actually tried the solution posted by Jon of All Trades and that worked perfectly for my needs -- i.e. using DEFINE and referencing the variable with &.
    – Matthew
    Commented Nov 19, 2018 at 15:17

SQL*Plus supports an additional format:

DEFINE StartDate = TO_DATE('2016-06-21');
DEFINE EndDate   = TO_DATE('2016-06-30');

    DateField BETWEEN &StartDate and &EndDate;

Note the ampersands where the substitutions are to be performed within the query.

  • This worked for me in Toad for Oracle when using any of these functions: Execute as script or Execute via Toad script runner or Execute via SQL*Plus. However, if you try running with the Execute/compile statement at caret it returns an error message: "ORA-009000: invalid SQL statement". Commented May 1, 2019 at 16:43
  • Works in SQL Developer too.
    – Wassadamo
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 7:56

In ORACLE SQL Developer, we can Run Script (F5):

DEFINE usr = 'YourName'; 
SELECT * FROM Department WHERE created_by = '&usr';

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