In following query I'm use both Common Table Expression and Outer queries. Apparently both looks same to me.

If I summarize my requirement, I have employees in SalaryTrans table and I want to find out amounts to be recovered from their salaries monthly. Table Rcovery contains all recovery data. Table Instalment contains all previously paid amounts so I want to sum all paid amounts and then it is deducted from total amount to calculate balance amount.

So what I'm doing here is in CTE, I'm getting two numeric fields called recovered_amount and total_amount. In second query I'm checking whether recovered_amount is not null and if it's not null I'm calculating the balance.

In outer query I have a criteria to filter out less than 0 balances from the result.

WITH CTE (employee_id, RID, instalment, reference, recovered_amount, total_amount) AS  
         (SELECT SalaryTrans.employee_id, Recovery.RID, Recovery.amount / Recovery.duration AS instalment, 
          SalaryTrans.reference, SUM(Instalment.recovered_amount) AS recovered_amount,       Recovery.amount AS total_amount
          FROM Recovery INNER JOIN
                        SalaryTrans ON Recovery.emp_id = SalaryTrans.employee_id LEFT OUTER JOIN
                        Instalment ON Recovery.RID = Instalment.recovery_id
          GROUP BY SalaryTrans.employee_id, SalaryTrans.reference, Recovery.RID, Recovery.amount / Recovery.duration, Recovery.amount)

SELECT RID, Balance, reference  FROM 
      (SELECT RID, 
       "Balance" = CASE WHEN recovered_amount !=NULL 
                   THEN total_amount-recovered_amount 
                   ELSE total_amount END , 
       reference FROM CTE) AS Result 
WHERE Balance >0

This query gives intended output. But I want to know Can I do whole thing using CTE or simply should I use outer queries in this case. Also any idea to make it look better?

Could you please review this and give your feedback?


2 Answers 2


Common table expressions

In general, common table expressions are an excellent way to build complex queries. For databases that support CTEs, I fully recommend using them in preference to correlated subqueries, since chaining is much more readable than nesting. I would suggest that you rewrite the nested Result subquery as a CTE as well, if there weren't a completely superior approach (see Rewrite below).

If you're going to use CTEs, name them properly. CTE is just about the least informative name possible for a CTE.


You have some inconsistencies in the schema. For example, Recovery has an emp_id column, but SalaryTrans has an employee_id column. You should also name the columns with consistent capitalization.


Looking inside your CTE, I see a few minor problems. I won't go into too much detail, since the whole query should be rewritten anyway.

I'm going to make a guess that the Recovery table has RID as its primary key, and that the SalaryTrans table has reference as its primary key. (It would be nice to include such information about the schema when asking questions — it makes reviews easier to write.) Since Recovery.amount / Recovery.duration AS instalment is never used in the main query, there is no point to computing it in the CTE. Also, it would be redundant to GROUP BY Recovery.amount / Recovery.duration, since there would never be two different values of Recovery.amount / Recovery.duration for any given RID. (The only effect it has would be to trigger a division-by-zero error if duration is zero, and I doubt that that was intentional.)

Your CTE should mention the columns, tables, and GROUP BY columns in a logical and consistent order.

Part of the reason you have so many GROUP BY columns is that you are joining SalaryTrans prematurely.


The LEFT OUTER JOIN is problematic. Assuming that the Instalment table is sanely designed such that the recovered_amount column is non-nullable, the LEFT OUTER JOIN introduces a needless null-handling complication. Rather than joining the Recovery and Instalment tables side-by-side, you want to combine them vertically.

WITH RecoveryEntries AS (
    SELECT RID, emp_id, amount
        FROM Recovery
    SELECT Recovery.RID, Recovery.emp_id, -Instalment.recovered_amount
        FROM Recovery
            INNER JOIN Instalment
                ON Recovery.RID = Instalment.recovery_id
), NetRecovery AS (
    SELECT RID, emp_id, SUM(amount) AS Balance
        FROM RecoveryEntries
        GROUP BY RID, emp_id
SELECT NetRecovery.RID, NetRecovery.Balance, SalaryTrans.reference
    FROM NetRecovery
        INNER JOIN SalaryTrans
            ON NetRecovery.emp_id = SalaryTrans.employee_id
    WHERE NetRecovery.Balance > 0
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice review, Thank you very much!. One thing to clarify... I need Recovery.amount / Recovery.duration AS instalment too in the final result. So what's the best way to add this? \$\endgroup\$
    – CAD
    Jul 6, 2014 at 5:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ To get instalment, if I rejoin Recovery table in the final SELECT... , I can get the required output. Is it ok? \$\endgroup\$
    – CAD
    Jul 6, 2014 at 5:54
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ We've covered all three ways: 1) LEFT OUTER JOIN, as in your original question; 2) Treat instalment just like Recovery.emp_id; 3) Rejoin Recovery. Each has advantages and disadvantages. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 6, 2014 at 6:19

I find the query rather difficult to read due to your indentation style. For your benefit and for the benefit of other reviewers, I've reformatted your query, changing only the whitespace:

WITH CTE (employee_id, RID, instalment, reference, recovered_amount, total_amount) AS (
    SELECT SalaryTrans.employee_id
         , Recovery.RID
         , Recovery.amount / Recovery.duration AS instalment
         , SalaryTrans.reference
         , SUM(Instalment.recovered_amount) AS recovered_amount
         , Recovery.amount AS total_amount
        FROM Recovery
            INNER JOIN SalaryTrans
                ON Recovery.emp_id = SalaryTrans.employee_id
            LEFT OUTER JOIN Instalment
                ON Recovery.RID = Instalment.recovery_id
        GROUP BY SalaryTrans.employee_id
               , SalaryTrans.reference
               , Recovery.RID
               , Recovery.amount / Recovery.duration
               , Recovery.amount
SELECT RID, Balance, reference
    FROM (
            SELECT RID
                 , "Balance" = CASE
                      WHEN recovered_amount != NULL THEN total_amount - recovered_amount 
                      ELSE total_amount
                 , reference
                FROM CTE
        ) AS Result 
    WHERE Balance > 0

In particular, note:

  1. For anything other than a trivial SELECT, use a separate line for each column being selected. (My use of leading commas may be controversial. I find that it helps prevent silly mistakes when editing the query to add and remove columns.)
  2. The indentation matches the clauses of each expression. For example,
    • The big-picture structure is WITH (CTEs) SELECT (something).
      • Within the CTE, SELECT takes a FROM clause and a GROUP BY clause.
        • The FROM clause consists of two JOINs.
      • The main SELECT has a FROM clause and a WHERE clause.
        • Within the CASE, make it more obvious that the THEN is associated with WHEN.
  3. Use a space on each side of binary operators such as !=, -, and >.

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