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Group By in SQL vs. Order By in SQL: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed & Dua Fatima || Published on March 3, 2024
GROUP BY in SQL aggregates rows that have the same values in specified columns into summary rows, while ORDER BY sorts the result set of a query by specified column(s).
Group By in SQL vs. Order By in SQL

Key Differences

GROUP BY is used in SQL queries to arrange identical data into groups, often used with aggregate functions like COUNT, SUM, AVG, MAX, or MIN, to perform calculations on each group. On the other hand, ORDER BY is utilized to sort the results returned by a query in ascending (ASC) or descending (DESC) order, based on one or more columns.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 03, 2024
When using GROUP BY, the SQL engine aggregates the rows that have the same values in the specified columns into summary rows. It's particularly useful for generating reports that require aggregation of data, such as totals or averages. In contrast, ORDER BY doesn't aggregate rows but simply arranges them based on the specified column's values, which can be numeric, string, or date data types.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 03, 2024
GROUP BY can significantly change the output of a query by consolidating rows into summarized data, affecting the number of rows in the result set. Conversely, ORDER BY affects only the order of rows in the result set, keeping the number of rows unchanged.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 03, 2024
GROUP BY is often used in conjunction with aggregate functions to summarize data, ORDER BY is mainly concerned with the presentation of data, ensuring that the results are displayed in a readable and organized manner according to the specified sorting order.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 03, 2024
It's important to note that GROUP BY and ORDER BY can be used together in a single SQL query. GROUP BY would first aggregate the data into groups, and then ORDER BY would sort the aggregated results or the entire result set, depending on the query's structure.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 03, 2024
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Comparison Chart

Purpose

Aggregates rows with identical values in specified columns
Sorts the result set by specified column(s)
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 03, 2024

Functionality

Groups data into summary rows
Orders rows in ascending or descending order
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 03, 2024

Use with

Aggregate functions like COUNT, SUM, AVG
Any SELECT statement
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 03, 2024

Result Set

Changes the number of rows by consolidating them into groups
Maintains the number of rows, altering only the order
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 03, 2024

Data Presentation

Used for data summarization and analysis
Used for organizing and presenting data in a readable format
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 03, 2024
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Group By in SQL and Order By in SQL Definitions

Group By in SQL

Used with aggregate functions to calculate summaries.
SELECT department, AVG(salary) FROM employees GROUP BY department.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Feb 26, 2024

Order By in SQL

Enhances data readability by sorting.
SELECT product, price FROM inventory ORDER BY price DESC.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Feb 26, 2024

Group By in SQL

Groups data based on one or more columns.
SELECT country, city, COUNT(*) FROM offices GROUP BY country, city.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Feb 26, 2024

Order By in SQL

Can sort data in ascending (default) or descending order.
SELECT name, salary FROM employees ORDER BY salary ASC.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Feb 26, 2024

Group By in SQL

Essential for data analysis and reporting.
SELECT date, SUM(revenue) FROM sales GROUP BY date.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Feb 26, 2024
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Order By in SQL

Affects the presentation of data without altering the content.
SELECT title FROM books ORDER BY title.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Feb 26, 2024

Group By in SQL

Changes the result set by grouping data.
SELECT category, SUM(sales) FROM products GROUP BY category.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Feb 26, 2024

Order By in SQL

ORDER BY sorts SQL query results by specified column(s).
SELECT name, age FROM users ORDER BY age DESC.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Feb 26, 2024

Group By in SQL

GROUP BY consolidates rows with identical values in specified columns into summary rows.
SELECT department, COUNT(*) FROM employees GROUP BY department.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Feb 26, 2024

Order By in SQL

Used in conjunction with GROUP BY for sorted summaries.
SELECT department, COUNT(*) FROM employees GROUP BY department ORDER BY COUNT(*) DESC.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Feb 26, 2024

Repeatedly Asked Queries

Can ORDER BY change the number of rows in a result set?

No, ORDER BY only changes the order of rows, not the quantity.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 03, 2024

What is the main purpose of GROUP BY in SQL?

To aggregate rows that have the same values in specified columns into summary rows.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 03, 2024

How does GROUP BY affect the result set of a query?

It consolidates rows with identical values in the specified columns, potentially reducing the number of rows by grouping them.
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
Mar 03, 2024

Does ORDER BY affect the underlying data in a database?

No, ORDER BY only affects the order of rows in the query result, not the actual data stored in the database.
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
Mar 03, 2024

Can ORDER BY sort data in both ascending and descending order?

Yes, ORDER BY can sort data in either ascending (ASC) or descending (DESC) order.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 03, 2024

What happens if GROUP BY is used without specifying any column?

Using GROUP BY without any column is generally invalid and would result in an error in most SQL databases.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 03, 2024

What types of columns can ORDER BY sort?

ORDER BY can sort columns of numeric, string, or date data types.
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
Mar 03, 2024

Is it possible to use GROUP BY without an aggregate function?

Typically, GROUP BY is used with an aggregate function to summarize data.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 03, 2024

How does GROUP BY contribute to data analysis?

It enables the summarization of data, which is essential for performing analysis and generating reports.
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
Mar 03, 2024

Can ORDER BY sort data based on expressions or functions?

Yes, ORDER BY can sort based on expressions or functions applied to columns.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 03, 2024

Can GROUP BY group data based on multiple columns?

Yes, GROUP BY can group data based on one or more columns.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 03, 2024

What is the default sort order for ORDER BY?

The default sort order is ascending (ASC).
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 03, 2024

Is GROUP BY necessary for all aggregate function queries?

While not always mandatory, GROUP BY is essential when you want to apply aggregate functions to specific groups in your data.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 03, 2024

Can GROUP BY and ORDER BY be used in the same query?

Yes, they can be used together to first aggregate data and then sort the aggregated or entire result set.
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
Mar 03, 2024

How does ORDER BY enhance data readability?

By organizing query results in a specified order, making it easier to understand and analyze the data.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 03, 2024

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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.
Dua Fatima
Co-written by
Dua Fatima

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