Casting

Casting refers to the process of changing the type of a row from one type to another. The standard SQL syntax for this is CAST(expr AS typename). DuckDB also supports the easier to type shorthand expr::typename, which is also present in PostgreSQL.

-- integers [1, 2, 3]
SELECT CAST(i AS VARCHAR), i::DOUBLE;
-- "1", "2", "3"
-- 1.0, 2.0, 3.0

The exact behavior of the cast depends on the source and destination types. For example, when casting from VARCHAR to any other type, the string will be attempted to be converted.

Not all casts are possible. For example, it is not possible to convert an INTEGER to a DATE. Casts may also throw errors when the cast could not be successfully performed. For example, trying trying to cast the string 'hello' to an INTEGER will result in an error being thrown.

Implicit Casting

In many situations, the system will add casts by itself. This is called implicit casting. This happens for example when a function is called with an argument that does not match the type of the function, but can be casted to the desired type.

Consider the function SIN(DOUBLE). This function takes as input argument a column of type DOUBLE, however, it can be called with an integer as well: SIN(1). If we look at the EXPLAIN output, we will see that the integer is converted into a double before being passed to the SIN function:

explain SELECT SIN(1);
-- logical_plan|PROJECTION[sin(CAST[DOUBLE](1))]

Generally, implicit casts only cast upwards. That is to say, we can implicitly cast an INTEGER to a BIGINT, but not the other way around.