SQL 102: A Useful Pivot


I don’t find myself pivoting data often but when I do I seem to always need to do the “complicated” pivot. You know, the one where you have a collection of unique values like email addresses where the value isn’t the column name but you want the 4 email addresses connected to one person in a single row rather than four rows. I can never remember how to do that so here is my personal internet bookmark for that code. Thanks to the late Robert Davis who gave the answer I┬áneeded back in 2015. Robert was a wonderful and generous contributor to the SQL Family his site is full of useful information and is still available here.

The solution is to add the categories you want as eventual columns to your result set before pivoting (it sounds simple enough but again then I can never remember it). So if you have say an account with multiple contacts:

/* A list of contacts */
SELECT a.acctNo,,
FROM contacts c JOIN accounts a ON a.acctNo = c.acctNo
ORDER BY a.acctNo, c.contactNo

This returns a list of results such as:

acctNo name email
1001 Susan [email protected]
1001 Mark [email protected]
1002 Aoife [email protected]

The one simple trick is to create a value for each row that will be repeated it can be used as a column name when you pivot:

/* A pivoted list of contacts */
WITH contactsCTE AS (SELECT a.acctNo
                        , ROW_NUMBER() OVER (PARTITION BY a.acctNo ORDER BY c.ContactID) AS ConNumber
                    FROM contacts c 
                          JOIN accounts a ON a.acctNo = c.acctNo)
    , MIN(name1) AS Name1
    , MIN(email1) AS Email1
    , MIN(name2) AS Name2
    , MIN(email2) AS Email2
FROM (SELECT cte.acctNo
          /* this creates a valid column name */
          , 'Name' + CAST(cte.ConNumber AS VARCHAR) AS NameNumber 
          /* this will hold the actual value to go in the column */
          , 'Email' + CAST(cte.ConNumber AS VARCHAR) AS EmailNumber
      FROM contactsCTE cte) AS pvt
          PIVOT (MIN(name)
              /* include as man col + # values in the set that 
                you want to return in the final result set */
              FOR NameNumber IN ([Name1], [Name2])) AS NamePvt 
          PIVOT (MIN(email)
              FOR EmailNumber IN ([Email1], [Email2])) AS EmailPvt
GROUP BY acctNo;

Simply repeat the structure of creating a valid column name (‘String’ + CAST(counter as VARCHAR)) and and you can include a pivot across as many different columns as need to be included. Our short list above now becomes:

acctNo Name1 Email1 Name2 Email2
1001 Susan [email protected] Mark [email protected]
1002 Aoife [email protected] NULL NULL

Hopefully now in the future I’ll remember I wrote this and I won’t have to go searching for the solution (again).