ORDER BY items must appear in the select list if SELECT DISTINCT is specified

When writing T-SQL code, at some point, under certain circumstances, you might get the error message: ORDER BY items must appear in the select list if SELECT DISTINCT is specified.


Explaining the Error Message with an Example

But let’s take things from  the beginning with the use of an example.

First, let’s create a temporary table:

        id INT PRIMARY KEY ,
        code VARCHAR(50) ,
        age INT

Then, let’s populate the table with some sample data:

VALUES ( 1, 'code 1', 25 ) ,
       ( 2, 'code 2', 27 ) ,
       ( 3, 'code 3', 29 ) ,
       ( 4, 'code 4', 25 ) ,
       ( 5, 'code 5', 21 ),
       ( 6, 'code 5', 21 );


Reproducing the Error Message

Now let’s run the below query, which tries to retrieve the distinct “age” values along with sorting the results based on the id:

FROM     #tmpTable
ORDER BY code;

However, when we execute the above query, we get the error message:

ORDER BY items must appear in the select list if SELECT DISTINCT is specified.


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Resolving the Issue

As the error message indicates, you are using in the ORDER BY clause, a column which is not included in the SELECT list. In this case this column is “code”.

Therefore, you definitely need to include in your query the column “code”.

So, for this example, you can try running the query as below:

FROM     #tmpTable
ORDER BY code;


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