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sql – SQL string composition

The module contains objects and functions useful to generate SQL dynamically, in a convenient and safe way. SQL identifiers (e.g. names of tables and fields) cannot be passed to the execute() method like query arguments:

# This will not work
table_name = 'my_table'
cur.execute("INSERT INTO %s VALUES (%s, %s)", [table_name, 10, 20])

The SQL query should be composed before the arguments are merged, for instance:

# This works, but it is not optimal
table_name = 'my_table'
    "INSERT INTO %s VALUES (%%s, %%s)" % table_name,
    [10, 20])

This sort of works, but it is an accident waiting to happen: the table name may be an invalid SQL literal and need quoting; even more serious is the security problem in case the table name comes from an untrusted source. The name should be escaped using escape_identifier():

from psycopg.pq import Escaping

# This works, but it is not optimal
table_name = 'my_table'
    "INSERT INTO %s VALUES (%%s, %%s)" % Escaping.escape_identifier(table_name),
    [10, 20])

This is now safe, but it somewhat ad-hoc. In case, for some reason, it is necessary to include a value in the query string (as opposite as in a value) the merging rule is still different. It is also still relatively dangerous: if escape_identifier() is forgotten somewhere, the program will usually work, but will eventually crash in the presence of a table or field name with containing characters to escape, or will present a potentially exploitable weakness.

The objects exposed by the psycopg.sql module allow generating SQL statements on the fly, separating clearly the variable parts of the statement from the query parameters:

from psycopg import sql

    sql.SQL("INSERT INTO {} VALUES (%s, %s)")
    [10, 20])

Module usage

Usually you should express the template of your query as an SQL instance with {}-style placeholders and use format() to merge the variable parts into them, all of which must be Composable subclasses. You can still have %s-style placeholders in your query and pass values to execute(): such value placeholders will be untouched by format():

query = sql.SQL("SELECT {field} FROM {table} WHERE {pkey} = %s").format(

The resulting object is meant to be passed directly to cursor methods such as execute(), executemany(), copy(), but can also be used to compose a query as a Python string, using the as_string() method:

cur.execute(query, (42,))
full_query = query.as_string(cur)

If part of your query is a variable sequence of arguments, such as a comma-separated list of field names, you can use the SQL.join() method to pass them to the query:

query = sql.SQL("SELECT {fields} FROM {table}").format(

sql objects

The sql objects are in the following inheritance hierarchy:

Composable: the base class exposing the common interface

|__ SQL: a literal snippet of an SQL query

|__ Identifier: a PostgreSQL identifier or dot-separated sequence of identifiers

|__ Literal: a value hardcoded into a query

|__ Placeholder: a %s-style placeholder whose value will be added later e.g. by execute()

|__ Composed: a sequence of Composable instances.

The Composable class

class psycopg.sql.Composable

Abstract base class for objects that can be used to compose an SQL string.

Composable objects can be passed directly to execute(), executemany(), copy() in place of the query string.

Composable objects can be joined using the + operator: the result will be a Composed instance containing the objects joined. The operator * is also supported with an integer argument: the result is a Composed instance containing the left argument repeated as many times as requested.


abstract as_bytes(context: Optional[AdaptContext])  bytes

Return the value of the object as bytes.


context (connection or cursor) – the context to evaluate the object into.

The method is automatically invoked by execute(), executemany(), copy() if a Composable is passed instead of the query string.


as_string(context: Optional[AdaptContext])  str

Return the value of the object as string.


context (connection or cursor) – the context to evaluate the string into.

The SQL class

class psycopg.sql.SQL(obj: LiteralString)

A Composable representing a snippet of SQL statement.

SQL exposes join() and format() methods useful to create a template where to merge variable parts of a query (for instance field or table names).

The obj string doesn’t undergo any form of escaping, so it is not suitable to represent variable identifiers or values: you should only use it to pass constant strings representing templates or snippets of SQL statements; use other objects such as Identifier or Literal to represent variable parts.


>>> query = sql.SQL("SELECT {0} FROM {1}").format(
...    sql.SQL(', ').join([sql.Identifier('foo'), sql.Identifier('bar')]),
...    sql.Identifier('table'))
>>> print(query.as_string(conn))
SELECT "foo", "bar" FROM "table"

Changed in version 3.1: The input object should be a LiteralString. See PEP 675 for details.


format(*args: Any, **kwargs: Any)  Composed

Merge Composable objects into a template.


  • args – parameters to replace to numbered ({0}, {1}) or auto-numbered ({}) placeholders
  • kwargs – parameters to replace to named ({name}) placeholders


the union of the SQL string with placeholders replaced



The method is similar to the Python str.format() method: the string template supports auto-numbered ({}), numbered ({0}, {1}…), and named placeholders ({name}), with positional arguments replacing the numbered placeholders and keywords replacing the named ones. However placeholder modifiers ({0!r}, {0:<10}) are not supported.

If a Composable objects is passed to the template it will be merged according to its as_string() method. If any other Python object is passed, it will be wrapped in a Literal object and so escaped according to SQL rules.


>>> print(sql.SQL("SELECT * FROM {} WHERE {} = %s")
...     .format(sql.Identifier('people'), sql.Identifier('id'))
...     .as_string(conn))
SELECT * FROM "people" WHERE "id" = %s

>>> print(sql.SQL("SELECT * FROM {tbl} WHERE name = {name}")
...     .format(tbl=sql.Identifier('people'), name="O'Rourke"))
...     .as_string(conn))
SELECT * FROM "people" WHERE name = 'O''Rourke'


join(seq: Iterable[Composable])  Composed

Join a sequence of Composable.


seq (iterable of Composable) – the elements to join.

Use the SQL object’s string to separate the elements in seq. Note that Composed objects are iterable too, so they can be used as argument for this method.


>>> snip = sql.SQL(', ').join(
...     sql.Identifier(n) for n in ['foo', 'bar', 'baz'])
>>> print(snip.as_string(conn))
"foo", "bar", "baz"

The Identifier class

class psycopg.sql.Identifier(*strings: str)

A Composable representing an SQL identifier or a dot-separated sequence.

Identifiers usually represent names of database objects, such as tables or fields. PostgreSQL identifiers follow different rules than SQL string literals for escaping (e.g. they use double quotes instead of single).


>>> t1 = sql.Identifier("foo")
>>> t2 = sql.Identifier("ba'r")
>>> t3 = sql.Identifier('ba"z')
>>> print(sql.SQL(', ').join([t1, t2, t3]).as_string(conn))
"foo", "ba'r", "ba""z"

Multiple strings can be passed to the object to represent a qualified name, i.e. a dot-separated sequence of identifiers.


>>> query = sql.SQL("SELECT {} FROM {}").format(
...     sql.Identifier("table", "field"),
...     sql.Identifier("schema", "table"))
>>> print(query.as_string(conn))
SELECT "table"."field" FROM "schema"."table"

The Literal class

class psycopg.sql.Literal(obj: Any)

A Composable representing an SQL value to include in a query.

Usually you will want to include placeholders in the query and pass values as execute() arguments. If however you really really need to include a literal value in the query you can use this object.

The string returned by as_string() follows the normal adaptation rules for Python objects.


>>> s1 = sql.Literal("fo'o")
>>> s2 = sql.Literal(42)
>>> s3 = sql.Literal(date(2000, 1, 1))
>>> print(sql.SQL(', ').join([s1, s2, s3]).as_string(conn))
'fo''o', 42, '2000-01-01'::date

Changed in version 3.1: Add a type cast to the representation if useful in ambiguous context (e.g. '2000-01-01'::date)

The Placeholder class

class psycopg.sql.Placeholder(name: str = '', format: Union[str, PyFormat] = PyFormat.AUTO)

A Composable representing a placeholder for query parameters.

If the name is specified, generate a named placeholder (e.g. %(name)s, %(name)b), otherwise generate a positional placeholder (e.g. %s, %b).

The object is useful to generate SQL queries with a variable number of arguments.


>>> names = ['foo', 'bar', 'baz']

>>> q1 = sql.SQL("INSERT INTO my_table ({}) VALUES ({})").format(
...     sql.SQL(', ').join(map(sql.Identifier, names)),
...     sql.SQL(', ').join(sql.Placeholder() * len(names)))
>>> print(q1.as_string(conn))
INSERT INTO my_table ("foo", "bar", "baz") VALUES (%s, %s, %s)

>>> q2 = sql.SQL("INSERT INTO my_table ({}) VALUES ({})").format(
...     sql.SQL(', ').join(map(sql.Identifier, names)),
...     sql.SQL(', ').join(map(sql.Placeholder, names)))
>>> print(q2.as_string(conn))
INSERT INTO my_table ("foo", "bar", "baz") VALUES (%(foo)s, %(bar)s, %(baz)s)

The Composed class

class psycopg.sql.Composed(seq: Sequence[Any])

A Composable object made of a sequence of Composable.

The object is usually created using Composable operators and methods. However it is possible to create a Composed directly specifying a sequence of objects as arguments: if they are not Composable they will be wrapped in a Literal.


>>> comp = sql.Composed(
...     [sql.SQL("INSERT INTO "), sql.Identifier("table")])
>>> print(comp.as_string(conn))

Composed objects are iterable (so they can be used in SQL.join for instance).


join(joiner: Union[SQL, LiteralString])  Composed

Return a new Composed interposing the joiner with the Composed items.

The joiner must be a SQL or a string which will be interpreted as an SQL.


>>> fields = sql.Identifier('foo') + sql.Identifier('bar')  # a Composed
>>> print(fields.join(', ').as_string(conn))
"foo", "bar"

Utility functions


psycopg.sql.quote(obj: Any, context: Optional[AdaptContext] = None)  str

Adapt a Python object to a quoted SQL string.

Use this function only if you absolutely want to convert a Python string to an SQL quoted literal to use e.g. to generate batch SQL and you won’t have a connection available when you will need to use it.

This function is relatively inefficient, because it doesn’t cache the adaptation rules. If you pass a context you can adapt the adaptation rules used, otherwise only global rules are used.



sql.SQL objects often useful in queries.



sql.SQL objects often useful in queries.