Relational calculus

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Relational calculus consists of two calculi, the tuple relational calculus and the domain relational calculus, that are part of the relational model for databases and provide a declarative way to specify database queries. This in contrast to the relational algebra, which is also part of the relational model but provides a more procedural way[according to whom?] for specifying queries.

The relational algebra might suggest these steps to retrieve the phone numbers and names of book stores that supply Some Sample Book:

  1. Join book stores and titles over the BookstoreID.
  2. Restrict the result of that join to tuples for the book Some Sample Book.
  3. Project the result of that restriction over StoreName and StorePhone.

The relational calculus would formulate a descriptive, declarative way:

Get StoreName and StorePhone for book stores such that there exists a title BK with the same BookstoreID value and with a BookTitle value of Some Sample Book.

The relational algebra and the relational calculus are essentially logically equivalent: for any algebraic expression, there is an equivalent expression in the calculus, and vice versa. This result is known as Codd's theorem.


  • Date, Christopher J. (2004). An Introduction to Database Systems (8th ed.). Addison Wesley. ISBN 0-321-19784-4.