table (Transact-SQL)

Applies to: SQL Server Azure SQL Database Azure SQL Managed Instance

table is a special data type used to store a result set for processing at a later time. table is primarily used for temporarily storing a set of rows that are returned as the table-valued function result set. Functions and variables can be declared to be of type table. table variables can be used in functions, stored procedures, and batches. To declare variables of type table, use DECLARE @local_variable.

Transact-SQL syntax conventions


table_type_definition ::=
    TABLE ( { <column_definition> | <table_constraint> } [ , ...n ] )

<column_definition> ::=
    column_name scalar_data_type
    [ COLLATE <collation_definition> ]
    [ [ DEFAULT constant_expression ] | IDENTITY [ ( seed , increment ) ] ]
    [ column_constraint ] [ ...n ]

 <column_constraint> ::=
    { [ NULL | NOT NULL ]
    | CHECK ( logical_expression )

<table_constraint> ::=
     { { PRIMARY KEY | UNIQUE } ( column_name [ , ...n ] )
     | CHECK ( logical_expression )


To view Transact-SQL syntax for SQL Server 2014 (12.x) and earlier versions, see Previous versions documentation.



The same subset of information that is used to define a table in CREATE TABLE. The table declaration includes column definitions, names, data types, and constraints. The only constraint types allowed are PRIMARY KEY, UNIQUE KEY, and NULL.

For more information about the syntax, see CREATE TABLE (Transact-SQL), CREATE FUNCTION (Transact-SQL), and DECLARE @local_variable (Transact-SQL).


The collation of the column that is made up of a Microsoft Windows locale and a comparison style, a Windows locale, and the binary notation, or a Microsoft SQL Server collation. If collation_definition isn't specified, the column inherits the collation of the current database. Or if the column is defined as a common language runtime (CLR) user-defined type, the column inherits the collation of the user-defined type.


table Reference variables by name in a batch's FROM clause, as shown the following example:

SELECT Employee_ID, Department_ID FROM @MyTableVar;

Outside a FROM clause, table variables must be referenced by using an alias, as shown in the following example:

SELECT EmployeeID,
FROM @MyTableVar m
    ON m.EmployeeID = Employee.EmployeeID
    AND m.DepartmentID = Employee.DepartmentID;

table variables provide the following benefits over temporary tables for small-scale queries that have query plans that don't change and when recompilation concerns are dominant:

  • A table variable behaves like a local variable. It has a well-defined scope. This variable can be used in the function, stored procedure, or batch in which it's declared.

    Within its scope, a table variable can be used like a regular table. It may be applied anywhere a table or table expression is used in SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE statements. However, table can't be used in the following statement:

SELECT select_list INTO table_variable;

table variables are automatically cleaned up at the end of the function, stored procedure, or batch in which they're defined.

  • table variables that are used in stored procedures cause fewer stored procedure recompilations than when temporary tables are used when there are no cost-based choices that affect performance.

    Table variables are completely isolated to the batch that creates them so no re-resolution has to occur when a CREATE or ALTER statement takes place, which may occur with a temporary table. Temporary tables need this re-resolution so the table can be referenced from a nested stored procedure. Table variables avoid this step completely, so stored procedures can use plan that is already compiled, thus saving resources to process the stored procedure.

  • Transactions involving table variables last only for the duration of an update on the table variable. As such, table variables require fewer locking and logging resources.

Limitations and restrictions

table variables don't have distribution statistics. They don't trigger recompiles. In many cases, the optimizer builds a query plan on the assumption that the table variable has no rows. For this reason, you should be cautious about using a table variable if you expect a larger number of rows (greater than 100). Temp tables may be a better solution in this case. For queries that join the table variable with other tables, use the RECOMPILE hint, which causes the optimizer to use the correct cardinality for the table variable.

table variables aren't supported in the SQL Server optimizer's cost-based reasoning model. As such, they shouldn't be used when cost-based choices are required to achieve an efficient query plan. Temporary tables are preferred when cost-based choices are required. This plan typically includes queries with joins, parallelism decisions, and index selection choices.

Queries that modify table variables don't generate parallel query execution plans. Performance can be affected when large table variables, or table variables in complex queries, are modified. Consider using temporary tables instead in situations where table variables are modified. For more information, see CREATE TABLE (Transact-SQL). Queries that read table variables without modifying them can still be parallelized.


Database compatibility level 150 improves the performance of table variables with the introduction of table variable deferred compilation. For more information, see Table variable deferred compilation.

Indexes can't be created explicitly on table variables, and no statistics are kept on table variables. Starting with SQL Server 2014 (12.x), new syntax was introduced which allows you to create certain index types inline with the table definition. Using this new syntax, you can create indexes on table variables as part of the table definition. In some cases, performance may improve by using temporary tables instead, which provide full index support and statistics. For more information about temporary tables and inline index creation, see CREATE TABLE (Transact-SQL).

CHECK constraints, DEFAULT values, and computed columns in the table type declaration can't call user-defined functions. Assignment operation between table variables isn't supported. Because table variables have limited scope and aren't part of the persistent database, transaction rollbacks don't affect them. Table variables can't be altered after creation.

Tables variables can't be used in an INSERT EXEC or SELECT INTO statement.

You can't use the EXEC statement or the sp_executesql stored procedure to run a dynamic SQL Server query that refers a table variable, if the table variable was created outside the EXEC statement or the sp_executesql stored procedure. Because table variables can be referenced in their local scope only, an EXEC statement and a sp_executesql stored procedure would be outside the scope of the table variable. However, you can create the table variable and perform all processing inside the EXEC statement or the sp_executesql stored procedure because then the table variables local scope is in the EXEC statement or the sp_executesql stored procedure.

A table variable isn't a memory-only structure. Because a table variable might hold more data than can fit in memory, it has to have a place on disk to store data. Table variables are created in the tempdb database similar to temporary tables. If memory is available, both table variables and temporary tables are created and processed while in memory (data cache).

Table variables vs temporary tables

Choosing between table variables and temporary tables depends on these factors:

  • The number of rows that are inserted to the table.
  • The number of recompilations the query is saved from.
  • The type of queries and their dependency on indexes and statistics for performance.

In some situations, breaking a stored procedure with temporary tables into smaller stored procedures so that recompilation takes place on smaller units is helpful.

In general, you use table variables whenever possible except when there is a significant volume of data and there is repeated use of the table. In that case, you can create indexes on the temporary table to increase query performance. However, each scenario may be different. Microsoft recommends that you test if table variables are more helpful than temporary tables for a particular query or stored procedure.


A. Declare a variable of type table

The following example creates a table variable that stores the values specified in the OUTPUT clause of the UPDATE statement. Two SELECT statements follow, which return the values in @MyTableVar and the results of the update operation in the Employee table. Results in the INSERTED.ModifiedDate column differ from the values in the ModifiedDate column in the Employee table. This difference is because the AFTER UPDATE trigger, which updates the value of ModifiedDate to the current date, is defined on the Employee table. However, the columns returned from OUTPUT reflect the data before triggers are fired. For more information, see OUTPUT Clause (Transact-SQL).

USE AdventureWorks2022;
    OldVacationHours INT,
    NewVacationHours INT,
    ModifiedDate DATETIME

UPDATE TOP (10) HumanResources.Employee
SET VacationHours = VacationHours * 1.25
INTO @MyTableVar;

--Display the result set of the table variable.
FROM @MyTableVar;

--Display the result set of the table.
--Note that ModifiedDate reflects the value generated by an
--AFTER UPDATE trigger.
SELECT TOP (10) BusinessEntityID,
FROM HumanResources.Employee;

B. Create an inline table-valued function

The following example returns an inline table-valued function. It returns three columns ProductID, Name, and the aggregate of year-to-date totals by store as YTD Total for each product sold to the store.

USE AdventureWorks2022;
IF OBJECT_ID (N'Sales.ufn_SalesByStore', N'IF') IS NOT NULL
    DROP FUNCTION Sales.ufn_SalesByStore;
CREATE FUNCTION Sales.ufn_SalesByStore (@storeid int)
    SELECT P.ProductID,
        SUM(SD.LineTotal) AS 'Total'
    FROM Production.Product AS P
    INNER JOIN Sales.SalesOrderDetail AS SD
        ON SD.ProductID = P.ProductID
    INNER JOIN Sales.SalesOrderHeader AS SH
        ON SH.SalesOrderID = SD.SalesOrderID
    INNER JOIN Sales.Customer AS C
        ON SH.CustomerID = C.CustomerID
    WHERE C.StoreID = @storeid
    GROUP BY P.ProductID,

To invoke the function, run this query.

SELECT * FROM Sales.ufn_SalesByStore (602);

See also