# What is difference between ROW_NUMBER() , RANK() and DENSE_RANK()?

All of these three functions are used to calculate RowID for the result set returned from a query but in slightly different way.

**Row_Number(): **This function will assign a unique id to each row returned from the query.

Consider following Query

DECLARE @Table TABLE (

Col_Value varchar(2)

)

INSERT INTO @Table (Col_Value)

VALUES (‘a’),(‘a’),(‘a’),(‘b’),(‘b’),(‘c’),(‘c’);

SELECT

Col_Value,

ROW_NUMBER() OVER (ORDER BY Col_Value) AS ‘RowID’

FROM

@Table;

After executing it we will get

Col_Value | RowID |

A | 1 |

A | 2 |

A | 3 |

B | 4 |

B | 5 |

C | 6 |

C | 7 |

As we notice, each and every row has a unique ID.

**Rank(): **This function will assign a unique number to each distinct row, But it leaves gap between the groups. Let me explain with a query, we will use the same query we used above with Rank().

SELECT

Col_Value,

Rank() OVER (ORDER BY Col_Value) AS ‘RowID’

FROM

@Table;

This query will return

Col_Value | RowID |

a | 1 |

a | 1 |

a | 1 |

b | 4 |

b | 4 |

c | 6 |

c | 6 |

As we can see rowid is unique for each distinct value, but with gap. What is this Gap?

This Gap represents number of occurrence. For example: – value ‘a’ is repeated thrice and has rank ‘1’ the next rank will be 1+3=4. Same with the next value 4+2=6 and so on.

**Dense_Rank(): **This function is similar to Rank with only difference, this will not leave gaps between groups.

So if we use same query used for Rank then:-

SELECT

Col_Value,

DENSE_RANK() OVER (ORDER BY Col_Value) AS ‘RowID’

FROM

@Table;

We will get

Col_Value | RowID |

a | 1 |

a | 1 |

a | 1 |

b | 2 |

b | 2 |

c | 3 |

c | 3 |

So it is clear that, it generates unique id for each group and without repetition.

As we are clear now what these functions do we can use them in different scenarios based on our need.

For Example: – Row_Number() can be used if we want to skip and fetch some records. Take a look on this query:-

WITH AllRecords

AS (

SELECT

Col_Value,

ROW_NUMBER() OVER (ORDER BY Col_Value) AS ‘RowID’

FROM

@Table)

SELECT

Col_Value,

RowID

FROM

AllRecords

WHERE

RowID >= 4

AND RowID <= 5;

This will retun only those rows with RowID 4 and 5. This function is very useful in paging data in SQL instead of in code till SQL SERVER 2012. In SQL Server 2012 Microsoft introduces new feature Offset Fetch similar to what we did in above query.

In SQL Server 2012 above query will be written as

SELECT

Col_Value

FROM

@Table

ORDER BY

Col_Value OFFSET 3 ROWS FETCH NEXT 2 ROWS ONLY;

This will skip first 3 rows and will fetch next 2.

Similarly We can use Dense_Rank() when we need to calculate rowid with Select Distinct.

SELECT

DISTINCT

Col_Value,

DENSE_RANK() OVER (ORDER BY Col_Value) AS ‘RowID’

FROM

@Table;

Will return:-

Col_Value | RowID |

a | 1 |

b | 2 |

c | 3 |

Or when we need a report where ranks clashes. For example:- two students scored same marks and shares same division.

We can use Rank() if we don’t want consecutive numbers.

Hope this article helped you.

Posted on August 2, 2016, in SQL and tagged Ankit Arora, Mindfire Solutions, SQL. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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