Joining strings with separators in PostgreSQL - CONCAT_WS()

In PostgreSQL, concatenating strings with a specific separator is a common requirement, especially when dealing with lists or constructing complex strings from multiple parts. The CONCAT_WS function provides a powerful and efficient way to join strings using a designated separator. The "WS" in CONCAT_WS stands for "With Separator", highlighting the function's primary purpose.

Understanding CONCAT_WS

The CONCAT_WS function takes multiple arguments, with the first argument being the separator to be used between each string in the concatenation process. The subsequent arguments are the strings to be joined. The syntax is as follows:

CONCAT_WS(separator, string1, string2, ..., stringN)

This function is particularly useful when you need a consistent separator throughout the concatenated string and when dealing with potential NULL values in the strings being concatenated.

Examples of Using CONCAT_WS

Example 1: Concatenating Names with a Separator

Suppose you have a table employees with columns first_name, middle_name, and last_name, and you want to create a full name string with spaces between the names:

SELECT CONCAT_WS(' ', first_name, middle_name, last_name) AS full_name

FROM employees;

If middle_name is NULL for some rows, CONCAT_WS will automatically skip it, ensuring that no extra spaces are introduced.

Example 2: Creating a CSV Line from Table Columns

Imagine you need to construct a comma-separated value (CSV) line from several columns in a table for export or reporting purposes:

SELECT CONCAT_WS(',', customer_id, customer_name, customer_email)

FROM customers;

This query concatenates the customer_id, customer_name, and customer_email columns into a single CSV line, with commas as separators.

Advantages of CONCAT_WS

  • Handling NULL Values: CONCAT_WS gracefully handles NULL values by omitting them from the output string, avoiding unintended gaps in the concatenated result.

  • Flexibility: It allows for a flexible number of arguments, making it suitable for various concatenation needs, from simple to complex scenarios.

  • Separator Consistency: Ensures that the separator is consistently applied between each pair of non-null strings, enhancing the readability and format consistency of the output.


The CONCAT_WS function in PostgreSQL is an essential tool for string manipulation, offering a straightforward and effective way to join strings with a specified separator while intelligently handling NULL values. Whether you're formatting data for display, constructing CSV lines, or simply concatenating strings with a cleaner syntax, CONCAT_WS offers a robust solution tailored for these tasks.