Understanding LEFT JOIN in PostgreSQL: A Comprehensive Guide


In our previous tutorial, we provided an overview of different JOIN types available in PostgreSQL. This article focuses on LEFT JOIN, one of the most commonly used JOIN operations. By understanding how to utilize LEFT JOINs effectively, you can fetch more meaningful data in your day-to-day tasks.

What is a LEFT JOIN?

The LEFT JOIN operation in SQL returns all records from the left table, along with the matching records from the right table. If there’s no match, NULL values are returned for columns from the right table. Essentially, a LEFT JOIN gives you a complete set of records from Table1, supplemented by matching records, if available, from Table2.


The basic syntax for a LEFT JOIN in PostgreSQL is as follows:

SELECT columns
FROM table1
LEFT JOIN table2
ON table1.column = table2.column;

Example using tv_series and producers Tables

Let’s extend our previous example using the tv_series and producers tables. We will aim to retrieve all TV series and their respective producers, even if some series do not have an associated producer.

Sample Data for tv_series and producers Tables

-- tv_series table
INSERT INTO tv_series (name, genre, seasons, is_running, release_year)
VALUES ('Breaking Bad', 'Crime', 5, false, 2008),
    ('Friends', 'Comedy', 10, false, 1994),
    ('Game of Thrones', 'Fantasy', 8, false, 2011),
    ('Stranger Things', 'Sci-Fi', 4, true, 2016);  -- No producer data for this series

-- producers table
INSERT INTO producers (tv_series_id, name)
VALUES (1, 'Vince Gilligan'),
    (1, 'Mark Johnson'),
    (2, 'Kevin S. Bright'),
    (2, 'Marta Kauffman'),
    (3, 'David Benioff'),
    (3, 'D. B. Weiss');


SELECT tv_series.name AS series_name, producers.name AS producer_name
FROM tv_series
LEFT JOIN producers
ON tv_series.id = producers.tv_series_id;

This query will return all series, including ‘Stranger Things’, even if they do not have a corresponding entry in the producers table.

series_name producer_name
Breaking Bad Vince Gilligan
Friends Mark Johnson
Game of Thrones Kevin S. Bright
Stranger Things

Common Errors and Solutions

Error Message:

ERROR: column reference "name" is ambiguous


This error is triggered when columns from multiple tables have the same name, and you haven’t specified which table’s column you’re referring to.


Prefix the column name with the table name like so: table_name.column_name.

Best Practices and Tips

  • Use LEFT JOINs when you want to include all records from the left table, regardless of whether there is a matching record in the joined table.
  • Always use table aliases for better readability and to avoid ambiguity in column names.
  • Mind performance: LEFT JOINs can become resource-intensive with large datasets.


LEFT JOIN is a powerful operation that helps you combine data from multiple tables in a flexible way. Understanding its intricacies will definitely make your SQL queries more effective and efficient. Stay tuned for more in-depth tutorials on other JOIN types.

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