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Generating a Sequence in SQL

, , 8 May 2014 CPOL 6.7K 7
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Generating a sequence in SQL


I came through one of the many interesting SQL questions on one of the forums yesterday. The original poster of the question wanted to get a list of the next 15 dates starting today. And he wanted to do this by using cursors. While you can write a cursor to get the results in this case, cursors are not meant to be used like this. A cursor is used to step through the results of a query that returns multiple results, e.g., rows from a table. One good old way of generating a sequence of next n dates would be to use the WHILE loop in SQL.

    DECLARE @LoopCount INT
    SET @LoopCount = 0
    DECLARE @calcDate DateTime
    SET @calcDate = GETDATE() 

    DECLARE @outDate varchar(30) 

    WHILE @LoopCount < 15
         SET @outDate = CONVERT(NVARCHAR, @calcDate, 103) 
         PRINT @outDate
         SET @calcDate = DATEADD(dd, 1, @calcDate) 

         SET @LoopCount = @LoopCount + 1

Generating a Sequence of Dates in SQL

Another better alternative would be to use the Common Table Expressions in SQL Server.

A common table expression (CTE) can be thought of as a temporary result set that is defined within the execution scope of a single SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE, or CREATE VIEW statement. A CTE is similar to a derived table in that it is not stored as an object and lasts only for the duration of the query. Unlike a derived table, a CTE can be self-referencing and can be referenced multiple times in the same query.
    WITH q AS
        SELECT  GETDATE() AS datum
        UNION ALL
        SELECT  datum + 1
        FROM    q
        WHERE datum + 1 < GETDATE() + 15
    SELECT  CONVERT(NVARCHAR, DATEADD(dd, DATEDIFF(dd, 0, datum), 0), 103) AS MyDate
    FROM    q

Generating a Sequence of Numbers in SQL

Similarly, you can generate the sequence of numbers in SQL using the Common Table Expressions.

    WITH q AS
        SELECT  1 AS num
        UNION ALL
        SELECT  num + 1
        FROM    q
        WHERE num < 15
    SELECT  * FROM    q

Generating a Sequence of Alphabets in SQL

Or, you can even generate the sequence of alphabets in SQL using the Common Table Expressions.

    WITH q AS
        SELECT  0 AS num
        UNION ALL
        SELECT  num + 1
        FROM    q
        WHERE num <= 26
        SELECT CHAR(num + 65) FROM    q


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Authors

Manas Bhardwaj
Netherlands Netherlands
Read my personal blog at

Software Developer (Senior)
United Kingdom United Kingdom
Works as a Contract Developer mainly in the Financial Services sector.

"Abandon all hope of ever being understood, all ye who have a good idea but don't say it perfectly." Doug Bernard

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Comments and Discussions

Suggestionan better alternate Pin
Thava Rajan14-May-14 4:15
memberThava Rajan14-May-14 4:15 
GeneralRe: an better alternate Pin
CHill(Hawkeye)6015-May-14 6:53
protectorCHill(Hawkeye)6015-May-14 6:53 
GeneralRe: an better alternate Pin
Thava Rajan16-May-14 3:17
memberThava Rajan16-May-14 3:17 
QuestionThank you! Pin
CHill(Hawkeye)609-May-14 1:24
protectorCHill(Hawkeye)609-May-14 1:24 

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