SQL DELETE Command: A Detailed Tutorial

Welcome to this detailed tutorial on using the SQL DELETE command. In this guide, we will explore the basics of SQL DELETE, different scenarios where it can be used, and step-by-step instructions to understand how it works. We will also include sample codes and explanations of their outputs.

1. Introduction to SQL DELETE

The SQL DELETE command is used to remove rows from a table in a database. Unlike the DROP command, which deletes the entire table structure, the DELETE command only removes data from the table.

2. Basic Syntax of SQL DELETE

The basic syntax of the SQL DELETE command is as follows:

DELETE FROM table_name
WHERE condition;
  • table_name: The name of the table from which you want to delete records.
  • condition: The condition that specifies which records should be deleted. If you omit the WHERE clause, all records in the table will be deleted.

3. Deleting All Records from a Table

If you want to delete all records from a table, you can use the DELETE statement without a WHERE clause. This operation is irreversible, so use it with caution.


Suppose we have a table called Employees.

DELETE FROM Employees;


  • This command will delete all rows from the Employees table.
  • After execution, the Employees table will be empty.

4. Deleting Specific Records Using a Condition

To delete specific records, you need to specify a condition in the WHERE clause.


Suppose we want to delete employees from the Employees table where the department is ‘Sales’.

WHERE Department = 'Sales';


  • This command deletes all rows where the Department column has the value ‘Sales’.
  • Only rows matching the condition will be removed.

5. Using DELETE with JOIN

Sometimes, you may need to delete records from a table based on a condition in another table. This can be done using a JOIN.


Suppose we have two tables, Orders and Customers. We want to delete orders from customers who are no longer active.

FROM Orders O
INNER JOIN Customers C ON O.CustomerID = C.CustomerID
WHERE C.Status = 'Inactive';


  • This command deletes rows from the Orders table where the customer status is ‘Inactive’.
  • The JOIN operation matches records in Orders with Customers based on CustomerID.

6. Deleting Records Based on Subqueries

You can also use subqueries to delete records based on more complex conditions.


Suppose we want to delete employees who have not placed any orders.

WHERE EmployeeID NOT IN (SELECT EmployeeID FROM Orders);


  • The subquery (SELECT EmployeeID FROM Orders) returns a list of EmployeeIDs who have placed orders.
  • The main query deletes employees whose EmployeeID is not in this list.

7. Output and Implications of DELETE Statements

When you execute a DELETE statement, the following can happen:

  • The specified rows are deleted from the table.
  • If there are foreign key constraints, deleting a row might also delete related rows in other tables (if cascading delete is set up).
  • The number of rows affected by the DELETE operation is typically returned by the database system.


Suppose we execute the following command:

WHERE EmployeeID = 101;

Possible Output:

  • If an employee with EmployeeID = 101 exists, that row will be deleted, and the output might be something like “1 row(s) affected”.
  • If no such employee exists, the output might be “0 row(s) affected”.

8. Practical Examples

Here are a few more practical examples to solidify your understanding:

Example 1: Deleting Records Based on Date

Delete all orders placed before January 1, 2022:

WHERE OrderDate < '2022-01-01';

Example 2: Deleting Records with Multiple Conditions

Delete all employees in the ‘HR’ department who have a salary less than $50,000:

WHERE Department = 'HR' AND Salary < 50000;

Example 3: Deleting with EXISTS Clause

Delete customers who have no orders:

WHERE NOT EXISTS (SELECT 1 FROM Orders WHERE Orders.CustomerID = Customers.CustomerID);


  • The EXISTS clause checks if there are any orders for each customer.
  • If no matching orders are found, the customer is deleted.


The SQL DELETE command is a powerful tool for managing data in your database. By understanding and using various conditions and joins, you can precisely control which records are removed. Always ensure that you have appropriate backups or are certain about the data removal to avoid accidental loss of important information.

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