PostgreSQL, a powerful and robust open-source database system, has been the preferred choice for developers across the globe. A fundamental reason for this preference lies in the intuitiveness and versatility of its commands. Among these, the PostgreSQL INSERT command is one of the most important, allowing you to add new rows to your database table efficiently.

This comprehensive tutorial guides you through the INSERT command, detailing its syntax, application, and some important variants for optimizing your PostgreSQL operations.

Understanding the PostgreSQL INSERT Command

The PostgreSQL INSERT command is used to insert new data into a table in the database. It is a versatile command that can accommodate a variety of data types, ranging from single values to multiple rows and even data derived from other tables. The simplicity and power of this command form the foundation of data management in PostgreSQL.

Syntax of PostgreSQL INSERT Command

The standard syntax of the INSERT command in PostgreSQL is as follows:

					INSERT INTO table_name (column1, column2, column3, ...)
VALUES (value1, value2, value3, ...);


In this structure, the table_name signifies the name of the table where you want to insert data. The column1, column2, column3,... represents the columns where the data will be inserted. value1, value2, value3,... indicates the corresponding values for these columns.

Applying PostgreSQL INSERT: An Example

To illustrate the usage of the INSERT command, let’s consider a simple example where we have a table named Students with columns Student_ID, Name, and Grade.

					INSERT INTO Students (Student_ID, Name, Grade)
VALUES (1, 'John Doe', 'A');


Executing this command inserts a new row into the Students table with the provided values.

Inserting Multiple Rows in PostgreSQL

The PostgreSQL INSERT command can also insert multiple rows with a single command. The syntax is as follows:

					INSERT INTO table_name (column1, column2, column3, ...)
(value1a, value2a, value3a, ...),
(value1b, value2b, value3b, ...),
(value1c, value2c, value3c, ...);


For instance, to insert three new students into our Students table, we would write:

					INSERT INTO Students (Student_ID, Name, Grade)
(2, 'Jane Doe', 'B'),
(3, 'Jim Smith', 'A'),
(4, 'Jill Brown', 'C');


Inserting Data from Another Table

The INSERT command can be paired with the SELECT command to insert data derived from another table. This is especially handy when you need to copy specific data from one table to another.

					INSERT INTO table_name (column1, column2, column3, ...)
SELECT column1, column2, column3, ...
FROM another_table
WHERE condition;


In a hypothetical scenario, if we want to create a new table Honor_Students including all students with an ‘A’ grade, we could use:

					INSERT INTO Honor_Students (Student_ID, Name)
SELECT Student_ID, Name
FROM Students
WHERE Grade = 'A';


Common Errors and Solutions

While the PostgreSQL INSERT command is robust, users might occasionally encounter errors. One common error is related to the violation of the NOT NULL constraint. This happens when you try to insert a null value into a column that does not accept null values. To avoid this, ensure that you always provide values for columns with a NOT NULL constraint:

					INSERT INTO Students (Student_ID, Name, Grade)
VALUES (5, 'Jake Davis', NULL);


This command would fail if Grade is a NOT NULL column. Instead, provide a value for Grade or use a default value if one has been set.

Another common error is related to the violation of unique constraints. For instance, if the Student_ID column has a unique constraint, attempting to insert a duplicate Student_ID will result in an error:

					INSERT INTO Students (Student_ID, Name, Grade)
VALUES (1, 'Jake Davis', 'B');


This command would fail if Student_ID 1 already exists. To circumvent this, always ensure the Student_ID is unique or use a sequence generator to auto-generate unique IDs.


The RETURNING clause in PostgreSQL is a potent addition to the INSERT command. It allows the command to return values of the inserted row. This can be particularly helpful for tables with auto-generated IDs where you want to know the ID of the newly inserted row:

					INSERT INTO Students (Name, Grade)
VALUES ('Jake Davis', 'B')


In this command, Student_ID is assumed to be an auto-generated column. Once the command executes, it will return the Student_ID of the new row.

Wrap up

Understanding and utilizing the PostgreSQL INSERT command effectively is crucial for managing and manipulating your data in PostgreSQL. From inserting single rows to multiple rows, from handling errors to returning values of inserted rows, this command is a powerhouse in the realm of PostgreSQL.

Leveraging its versatility and functionality allows you to maintain efficient and high-performing database operations, making your data management tasks more streamlined and manageable. As we’ve seen, the INSERT command is more than just adding data into a table—it’s about optimizing and tailoring your data to suit your specific needs.

Check how to install PostgreSQL:

Thanks for reading. Happy coding!