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A inner join only shows rows if there is a matching record on the other (right) side of the join.

A (left) outer join shows rows for each record on the left hand side, even if there are no matching rows on the other (right) side of the join. If there is no matching row, the columns for the other (right) side would show NULLs.

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In simple words:

An inner join retrieve the matched rows only.

Whereas an outer join retrieve the matched rows from one table and all rows in other table ....the result depends on which one you are using:

  • Left: Matched rows in the right table and all rows in the left table

  • Right: Matched rows in the left table and all rows in the right table or

  • Full: All rows in all tables. It doesn't matter if there is a match or not

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Assuming you're joining on columns with no duplicates, which is a very common case:

  • An inner join of A and B gives the result of A intersect B, i.e. the inner part of a Venn diagramintersection.

  • An outer join of A and B gives the results of A union B, i.e. the outer parts of a Venn diagram union.

Examples

Suppose you have two tables, with a single column each, and data as follows:

A    B
-    -
1    3
2    4
3    5
4    6

Note that (1,2) are unique to A, (3,4) are common, and (5,6) are unique to B.

Inner join

An inner join using either of the equivalent queries gives the intersection of the two tables, i.e. the two rows they have in common.

select * from a INNER JOIN b on a.a = b.b;
select a.*, b.*  from a,b where a.a = b.b;

a | b
--+--
3 | 3
4 | 4

Left outer join

A left outer join will give all rows in A, plus any common rows in B.

select * from a LEFT OUTER JOIN b on a.a = b.b;
select a.*, b.*  from a,b where a.a = b.b(+);

a |  b
--+-----
1 | null
2 | null
3 |    3
4 |    4

Right outer join

A right outer join will give all rows in B, plus any common rows in A.

select * from a RIGHT OUTER JOIN b on a.a = b.b;
select a.*, b.*  from a,b where a.a(+) = b.b;

a    |  b
-----+----
3    |  3
4    |  4
null |  5
null |  6

Full outer join

A full outer join will give you the union of A and B, i.e. all the rows in A and all the rows in B. If something in A doesn't have a corresponding datum in B, then the B portion is null, and vice versa.

select * from a FULL OUTER JOIN b on a.a = b.b;

 a   |  b
-----+-----
   1 | null
   2 | null
   3 |    3
   4 |    4
null |    6
null |    5
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