str_to_date Function

Mysql

As many know, I’ve adopted Learning SQL by Alan Beaulieu as a core reference for my database class. Chapter 7 in the book focuses on data generation, manipulation, and conversion.

The last exercise question in my check of whether they read the chapter and played with some of the discussed functions is:

Use one or more temporal function to write a query that convert the ’29-FEB-2024′ string value into a default MySQL date format. The result should display:

+——————–+
| mysql_default_date |
+——————–+
| 2029-02-20 |
+——————–+
1 row in set, 1 warning (0.00 sec)

If you’re not familiar with the behavior of MySQL functions, this could look like a difficult problem to solve. If you’re risk inclined you would probably try the STR_TO_DATE function but if you’re not risk inclined the description of the %m specifier might suggest you don’t have SQL builtin to solve the problem.

I use the problem to teach the students how to solve problems in SQL queries. The first step requires putting the base ’29-FEB-2024′ string value into a mystringcolumn in the strings table, like:

DROP TABLE IF EXISTS strings;
CREATE TABLE strings
(mystring VARCHAR(11));

SELECT ‘Insert’ AS statement;
INSERT INTO strings
(mystring)
VALUES
(’29-FEB-2024′);

The next step requires creating a query with:

A list of parameters in a Common Table Expression (CTE)
A CASE statement to filter results in the SELECT-list
A CROSS JOIN between the strings table and params CTE

The query would look like this resolves the comparison in the CASE statement through a case insensitive comparison:

SELECT ‘Query’ AS statement;
WITH params AS
(SELECT ‘January’ AS full_month
UNION ALL
SELECT ‘February’ AS full_month)
SELECT s.mystring
, p.full_month
, CASE
WHEN SUBSTR(s.mystring,4,3) = SUBSTR(p.full_month,1,3) THEN
STR_TO_DATE(REPLACE(s.mystring,SUBSTR(s.mystring,4,3),p.full_month),’%d-%M-%Y’)
END AS converted_date
FROM strings s CROSS JOIN params p;

and return:

+————-+————+—————-+
| mystring | full_month | converted_date |
+————-+————+—————-+
| 29-FEB-2024 | January | NULL |
| 29-FEB-2024 | February | 2024-02-29 |
+————-+————+—————-+
2 rows in set (0.00 sec)

The problem with the result set, or derived table, is the CROSS JOIN. A CROSS JOIN matches every row in one table with every row in another table or derived table from prior joins. That means you need to add a filter in the WHERE clause to ensure you only get matches between the strings and parameters, like the modified query:

WITH params AS
(SELECT ‘January’ AS full_month
UNION ALL
SELECT ‘February’ AS full_month)
SELECT s.mystring
, p.full_month
, CASE
WHEN SUBSTR(s.mystring,4,3) = SUBSTR(p.full_month,1,3) THEN
STR_TO_DATE(REPLACE(s.mystring,SUBSTR(s.mystring,4,3),p.full_month),’%d-%M-%Y’)
END AS converted_date
FROM strings s CROSS JOIN params p
WHERE SUBSTR(s.mystring,4,3) = SUBSTR(p.full_month,1,3);

It returns a single row, like:

+————-+————+—————-+
| mystring | full_month | converted_date |
+————-+————+—————-+
| 29-FEB-2024 | February | 2024-02-29 |
+————-+————+—————-+
1 row in set (0.00 sec)

However, none of this is necessary because the query can be written like this:

SELECT STR_TO_DATE(’29-FEB-2024′,’%d-%M-%Y’) AS mysql_date;

It returns:

+————+
| mysql_date |
+————+
| 2024-02-29 |
+————+
1 row in set (0.00 sec)

That’s because the STR_TO_DATE() function with the %M specifier resolves all months with three or more characters. Three characters are required because both Mar and May, and June and July can only be qualified by three characters. If you provide less than three characters of the month, the function returns a null value.

Here’s a complete test case that lets you discover all the null values that may occur with two few characters:

/* Conditionally drop the table. */
DROP TABLE IF EXISTS month, param;

/* Create a table. */
CREATE TABLE month
( month_name VARCHAR(9));

/* Insert into the month table. */
INSERT INTO month
( month_name )
VALUES
(‘January’)
,(‘February’)
,(‘March’)
,(‘April’)
,(‘May’)
,(‘June’)
,(‘July’)
,(‘August’)
,(‘September’)
,(‘October’)
,(‘November’)
,(‘December’);

/* Create a table. */
CREATE TABLE param
( month VARCHAR(9)
, needle VARCHAR(9));

/* Conditionally drop the procedure. */
DROP PROCEDURE IF EXISTS read_string;
DROP PROCEDURE IF EXISTS test_month_name;

/* Reset the execution delimiter to create a stored program. */
DELIMITER $$

/* Create a procedure. */
CREATE PROCEDURE read_string(month_name VARCHAR(9))
BEGIN

/* Declare a handler variable. */
DECLARE display VARCHAR(17);
DECLARE evaluate VARCHAR(17);
DECLARE iterator INT DEFAULT 1;
DECLARE partial VARCHAR(9);

/* Read the list of characters. */
character_loop:LOOP

/* Print the character list. */
IF iterator > LENGTH(month_name) THEN
LEAVE character_loop;
END IF;

/* Assign substring of month name. */
SELECT SUBSTR(month_name,1,iterator) INTO partial;
SELECT CONCAT(’01-‘,partial,’-2024′) INTO evaluate;

/* Print only the strings too short to identify as the month. */
IF STR_TO_DATE(evaluate,’%d-%M-%Y’) IS NULL THEN
INSERT INTO param
( month, needle )
VALUES
( month_name, partial );
END IF;

/* Increment the counter. */
SET iterator = iterator + 1;

END LOOP;
END;
$$

/* Create a procedure. */
CREATE PROCEDURE test_month_name()
BEGIN

/* Declare a handler variable. */
DECLARE display VARCHAR(17);
DECLARE evaluate VARCHAR(17);
DECLARE iterator INT DEFAULT 1;
DECLARE partial VARCHAR(9);
DECLARE month_name VARCHAR(9);

/* Declare a handler variable. */
DECLARE fetched INT DEFAULT 0;

/* Cursors must come after variables and before event handlers. */
DECLARE month_cursor CURSOR FOR
SELECT m.month_name
FROM month m;

/* Declare a not found record handler to close a cursor loop. */
DECLARE CONTINUE HANDLER FOR NOT FOUND SET fetched = 1;

/* Open cursor and start simple loop. */
OPEN month_cursor;
cursor_loop:LOOP

/* Fetch a record from the cursor. */
FETCH month_cursor
INTO month_name;

/* Place the catch handler for no more rows found
immediately after the fetch operations. */
IF fetched = 1 THEN
/* Fetch the partial strings that fail to find a month. */
SELECT * FROM param;

/* Leave the loop. */
LEAVE cursor_loop;
END IF;

/* Call the subfunction because stored procedures do not
support nested loops. */
CALL read_string(month_name);
END LOOP;
END;
$$

/* Reset the delimter. */
DELIMITER ;

CALL test_month_name();

It returns the list of character fragments that fail to resolve English months:

+———+——–+
| month | needle |
+———+——–+
| January | J |
| March | M |
| March | Ma |
| April | A |
| May | M |
| May | Ma |
| June | J |
| June | Ju |
| July | J |
| July | Ju |
| August | A |
+———+——–+
11 rows in set (0.02 sec)

As always, I hope this helps those looking to open the hood and check the engine.