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Cesare Ferrari
Cesare Ferrari

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How to create a join query with Knex

Retrieving data from two join tables in a REST API

In the previous article we have seen how to set up an API endpoint that retrieves posts associated with an user id.
What we got back from the database, apart from the post content, was an integer that represented the user id.

We know that each user also has a name saved in the users table. What if we want to display the user name in addition to the post?
To achieve this outcome, we need to join two tables (users, and posts) and create a query in Knex that pulls data from both tables.
This is the code we currently have in the User router:

router.get('/:id/posts', async (req, res) => {
  const { id } = req.params;

  try {
    const posts = await db('posts').where({user_id: id})
  } catch (err) {
    res.status(500).json({message: "can't get posts"})

This code creates a route that retrieves the posts with a specific user id.
If we want to grab data from the users table, though, we need a join statement in our query.

We have seen in an earlier article how to retrieve data from two joined tables with plain SQL.
The syntax would look something like this:

SELECT, users.username, posts.content 
FROM posts 
JOIN users
ON = posts.user_id;

When using Knex we write a similar syntax. We can refactor our query to use a join statement like this:

const posts = await db('posts')
  .join('users', '', 'posts.user_id')
  .select('', 'users.username', 'posts.contents')
  .where({user_id: id})

The .join() method above takes the join table name as the first parameter. The next two parameters are the columns that contain the values on which the join is based, that is, the user id and the post user_id.

We also add a .select() method, that lets us pick the columns we want to display, similar to the SELECT statement in SQL.

If we now try out this endpoint with a REST client, we correctly get back the full username from the users table:

Returning usernames

Using aliases

Our code works fine, but we can do better.

When we use joins, since the data is coming from two or more tables, we must specify which table we refer to in our code.
We have to write things like '', 'users.username', and 'posts.contents' because SQL needs to know without ambiguity which tables and columns we refer to.

That's a lot of typing. If we want to avoid some keystrokes, SQL provides us with a feature called aliases. An alias is an alternative name we give to an entity. For example, we could refer to the posts table with the alias 'p', which is much shorter to write than 'posts'.

And we could refer to the users table with the alias 'u'.

This makes it much easier, and faster, to type table names. Here's an example, using aliases:

const posts = await db('posts as p')
  .join('users as u', '', 'p.user_id')
  .select('', 'u.username', 'p.contents')
  .where({user_id: id})

We first define aliases in our code with the keyword 'as', like 'posts as p', and 'users as u'. After that, we can use the shortcuts any time we need to type in the full table name.

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Top comments (2)

gerardolima profile image
Gerardo Lima

hey, Cesare, I'm not sure if you are aware, but the theme where code is presented is not very readable (at least on dark mode).

abhijitaher profile image
Abhijit Aher

Hi, Cesare reading your articles, good explanations, thanks for it, can you please link the previous and next article at start and end of the current article respectively, that would help a lot.