Question:

How to select first 5 records from a table?

Answer:

This question, often asked in many interviews, does not make any sense to me. The problem here is how do you define which record is first and which is second. Which record is retrieved first from the database is not deterministic. It depends on many uncontrollable factors such as how database works at that moment of execution etc. So the question should really be – “how to select any 5 records from the table?” But whatever it is, here is the solution:

In Oracle,

SELECT * 
FROM EMP
WHERE ROWNUM <= 5;

In SQL Server,

SELECT TOP 5 * FROM EMP;

Generic solution,

I believe a generic solution can be devised for this problem if and only if there exists at least one distinct column in the table. For example, in our EMP table ID is distinct. We can use that distinct column in the below way to come up with a generic solution of this question that does not require database specific functions such as ROWNUM, TOP etc.

SELECT  name 
FROM EMPLOYEE o
WHERE (SELECT count(*) FROM EMPLOYEE i WHERE i.name < o.name) < 5

name
Inno
Anno
Darl
Meme
Bhuti

I have taken “name” column in the above example since “name” is happened to be unique in this table. I could very well take ID column as well.

In this example, if the chosen column was not distinct, we would have got more than 5 records returned in our output.

Do you have a better solution to this problem? If yes, post your solution in the comment.


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