Query Expressions

Query Expression #

Query expressions are used to select rows of a table. When executed as a query (i.e. by pressing ?), they will be translated into query or table scans that will run over the DynamoDB table in AWS. They work similar to the “where” clause in PartiQL except that they only require Query and Scan permission on the AWS table and do not require “select” clauses. Such expressions can also be used in other areas of Dynamo-Browse, such as populating the value of new columns.

Names And Values #

A query expressions support the following literals:

  • Strings: "Hello"
  • Integers: 123
  • Boolean: true or false

Field names are represented as regular identifiers, such as pk or address.

Equality #

To select rows with a field that equals a given value, use the = operator:

pk = "something"

Either operand will can be an identifier, placeholder, or value that resolves to any type. The result will be true if both the LHS and RHS equal the same type and value. If the types differ or the values differ, the result will be false. The field types can be different, but will always produce false.

The compliment is the != operator:

pk != "not this"

Numerical Comparison #

The operands <, <=, >, >= can be used to compare numerical fields and values:

three < 5     // true
three <= 3    // true
three > 12    // false
three >= 1    // true

To verify that a number exists within a range, use the between operand:

three between 1 and 5   // true

Prefix Operator #

To select rows with a field that starts with a given substring, use the ^= operator:

pk ^= "some"

This is equivalent to using the begins_with function in AWS query expressions.

Logical Operators #

The logical operators and, or and not can be used to express conjunctions, disjunctions and logical negation between multiple expressions:

pk = "this" and sk = "that"
pk != "that" and count > 123
not count = 21

The order of precedence of these operators, from lowest to highest, is or, and, then not. This differs from AWS, in which all operators have the same precedence. For example, the query:

pk="this" or pk="that" and sk="foo"

is equivalent to:

pk="this" or (pk="that" and sk="foo")

The order can be overridden using brackets:

(pk="this" or pk="that") and sk="foo"

If a query expression is of the form pk = <val> or pk = <val> and sk <op> <val>, where:

  • pk and sk are the partition and sort keys of the base table or a GSI,
  • val resolves to a constant value, and,
  • op is either =, ^=, <, <=, >, >=, or between

the expression will be executed as a Query call. Unlike expressions on the AWS Query API method itself, the order of the pk and sk subexpressions can be swapped.

Other expressions are supported but they will be executed as a table Scan.

The in Operator #

The in operator can be used to determine if a value exists in a collection:

three in (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

name in ("Tom", "Dick", "Harry")

The result will be a boolean, which will be true if the value of the LHS equals any of the items within the RHS.

The collection can be one or more fixed set of values within parenthesis separated by commas. A single value present within parenthesis is equivalent to the equality test:

three in (3)   // equivalent to: three = 3

The right hand side can also be a subexpression without parenthesis that will resolve to either a string, list or map. The operand will behave differently based on the RHS type:

  • If the RHS is a string, the result will be true if the LHS is a substring of the RHS (equivalent to the contains AWS conditional expressions function)
  • If the RHS is a list, the result will be true if the LHS equals any of the items of the list
  • If the RHS is a map, the result will be true if the LHS appears as a key of the map

The compliment operand is not in:

three not in (6, 7, 8, 9)

The is Operator #

The is operator can be used to assert the value type. The RHS operand is a string which is to represent an AWS DynamoDB item attribute type, for example S for strings, N for numbers, etc.

"hello" is "S"    // true
123 is "N"        // true
"hello" is "N"    // false

This is equivalent to the attribute_type AWS conditional expressions function.

The special value any can be used to check that a field is set, regardless of type:

pk is "any"  // true

This is equivalent to the attribute_exists AWS conditional expressions function.

The compliment operand is not is. Using it with the “any” special value (not is "any") is equivalent to the attribute_not_exists AWS conditional expressions function.

The using Options #

A query that is to be executed on the actual table in AWS will go though a short planning phase to determine whether it’s possible to invoke the expression as a Query call. If the attributes map to partition and sort keys of either the main table, or exactly one GSI associated with the table, the expression will be executed as a Query over the table or the GSI found with those attributes.

In cases where multiple GSI candidates exist on the base table, the query will fail with the following error:

multiple plans with index found. Specify index or scan with 'using' clause

In these cases, the index will need to be specified with the using keyword with the index option:

address="something" using index("specific-gsi-name")

The using keyword can also be used to force the expression to run as a table scan, even if the query can be invoked using a Query call over the base table or GSI:

address="something" using scan

Builtin Functions #

Query expressions support a number of builtin functions.

The marked function #


The marked function will return a list of field values of all marked rows of the current result set. The items will appear in the list as they appear in the result set. The fieldname currently only supports top-level fields. If no fields are marked, the empty list is returned.


The range function #

range(from, to)

The range function will return a list of integers between from and to inclusive. Non integers will be truncated to integers, and the step is always be 1.

range(2, 5)            // [2, 3, 4, 5]
three in range(2, 5)   // true

The size function #


The size function will return the number of items of a list or map, or the length of a string.

The size function is equivalent to the size AWS conditional expressions function, and as such is the only function that is included as is in the generated Query or Scan expression. All other functions are evaluated prior to making the Query or Scan AWS call.

Placeholders #

In some circumstances, such as the session.query method, it’s possible to use a placeholder as a field or value. To expand a placeholder to an identifier, use the : prefix. To expanded the placeholder as a value, use the $ prefix. For example, the expression :key = $value in the following script:

out := session.query(":key = $value", {
  table: "some-table",
  args: {
    key: "pk",
    value: "value"

Is equivalent to the query pk = "hello", as the placeholder :key is expanded to an identifier and $value is expanded to a value, in this case a string.