Table of Contents

Basic SQL Syntax

In this chapter, we will go over the basic SQL syntax.

SQL statements are basically the 'commands' that you run against a specific database. Through the SQL statements, you are telling MySQL what you want it to do, for example, if you wanted to get the username of all of your users stored in the users table, you would run the following SQL statement:

SELECT username FROM users ;

Rundown of the statement:

  • SELECT: First, we specify the SELECT keyword, which indicates that we want to select some data from the database. Other popular keywords are: INSERT, UPDATE and DELETE.
  • username: Then we specify which column we want to select
  • users: After that, we specify the table that we want to select the data from.
  • The ; is required. Every SQL statement needs to end with a semicolumn.

If you run the above statement, you will get no results as the new users table that we've just created is empty.

As a good practice, all SQL keywords should be with uppercase, however, it would work just fine if you use lower case as well.

Let's go ahead and cover the basic operations next.


To add data to your database, you would use the INSERT statement.

Let's use the table that we created in the last chapter and insert 1 user into our users table:

INSERT INTO users(username, email, active) VALUES('bobby', '[email protected]', true);

Rundown of the insert statement:

  • INSERT INTO users: first, we specify the INSERT INTO keyword, which tells MySQL that we want to insert data into the users table.
  • users (username, email, active): then, we specify the table name users and the columns that we want to insert data into.
  • VALUES: then, we specify the values that we want to insert in.


Once we've inserted that user, let's go ahead and retrieve the information.

To retrieve information from your database, you could use the SELECT statement:

SELECT * FROM users;


| id | username | about | birthday | active | email         |
|  1 | bobby    | NULL  | NULL     |      1 | [email protected] |

As we specify * right after the SELECT keyword, this means that we want to get all of the columns from the users table.

If we wanted to the only the username and the email columns instead, we would change the statement to:

SELECT username,email FROM users;

This will return all of the users, but as of the time being we have only 1:

| username | email                |
| bobby    | [email protected] |


In order to modify data in your database, you could use the UPDATE statement.

The syntax would look like this:

UPDATE users SET username='bobbyiliev' WHERE id=1;

Rundown of the statement:

  • UPDATE users: first, we specify the UPDATE keyword followed by the table that we want to update
  • username='bobbyiliev' Then we specify the columns that we want to update and the new value that we want to set.
  • WHERE id=1: Finally, by using the WHERE clause, we specify which user should be updated. In our case it is the user with ID 1.

NOTE: If we don't specify a WHERE clause, all of the entries inside the users table would be updated, and all users would have the username set to bobbyiliev. You need to be careful when you use the UPDATE statement without a WHERE clause, as every single row will be updated.

We are going to cover WHERE more in-depth in the next few chapters.


As the name suggests, the DELETE statement would remove data from your database.

The syntax is as follows:


Similar to the UPDATE statement, if you don't specify a WHERE clause, all of the entries from the table will be affected, meaning that all of your users will be deleted.


In case that you are writing a larger SQL script, it might be helpful to add some comments so that later on, when you come back to the script, you would know what each line does.

As with all programming languages, you can add comments in SQL as well.

There are two types of comments:

  • Inline comments:

To do so, you just need to add -- before the text that you want to comment out:

SELECT * FROM users; -- Get all users
  • Multiple-line comments

Similar to some other programming languages in order to comment multiple lines, you could wrap the text in /* */ as follows:

Get all of the users
from your database
SELECT * FROM users;

You could write that in .sql file and then run it later on, or execute the few lines directly.


Those were some of the most common basic SQL statements.

In the next chapter, we are going to go over each of the above statements more in-depth.