Converting from one data type to another is a common operation you'll perform when working in databases.

And SQL provides a useful utility known as CAST to achieve this. We'll see how it works in this article.

What is the CAST Function in SQL?

CAST enables us to convert from one data type to another. It is very helpful in concatenating results of different data types. It also helps us perform calculations on two different data types.

CAST does not alter the data in the database. The conversion is valid only during the life of the query. But it is possible to convert and insert in a new column or table.

ADVERTISEMENT

Syntax of CAST in SQL

Below is the syntax of the CAST function:

CAST ( expression AS data_type [ ( length ) ])

Where,

  • expression is the query such as: id as VARCHAR
  • data_type is the target data type.
  • length determines the length of the target data type. This part is optional.

How to Use the CAST Function in SQL

Sample table

Let's create a table store_locations as shown below:

-- create a table named store_locations

CREATE TABLE store_locations (
  id INTEGER PRIMARY KEY,
  store_name VARCHAR(10) NOT NULL,
  store_id INTEGER NOT NULL,
  postal_code VARCHAR(10)
);

Where,

  • id is the Primary Key.
  • store_name is the store's name with VARCHAR datatype.
  • store_id is the ID of the store and an INTEGER.
  • postal_code is store's postal address with type VARCHAR.

After inserting some values, our table looks like this:

image-24
store_locations table
ADVERTISEMENT

How to convert char to int in SQL

Let's check out an example of how to convert the char (VARCHAR) datatype into int.

In our example, our task is to generate a new column which adds (sums) the store_id and postal_code to generate another unique ID.

Remember, store_id is an INTEGER, whereas postal_code is VARCHAR. To convert postal_code into an integer, we can use CAST like this:

-- convert char to int
-- generate a new id by adding store id and postal code

select store_id, postal_code, store_id + cast(postal_code AS INTEGER) AS [StoreID-Postalcode] from store_locations

Output:

image-25
Combining the columns store_id and postal_code

How to convert int into char in SQL

In this example, our goal is to combine two columns – store_name and store_id – to generate a new column.

Remember, store_name is a VARCHAR, whereas store_id is an INTEGER.

If we try to add int and char without casting, what would be the result?

We would get an exception as shown below:

image-26
Type conversion exception

Let's cast and see the results.

-- conversion from int to char
-- storename + store ID

select store_name, store_id, store_name + ' - ' + cast(store_id AS VARCHAR) AS [Storename-storeId]
from store_locations

Output:

We can see that our output has been concatenated without error.

image-27
ADVERTISEMENT

Wrapping Up

The CAST function is very useful to convert data types and perform complex calculations.

Do give these commands a try and experiment with different data types like 'date'.