Should I use != or <> for not equal in T-SQL?


I have seen SQL that uses both != and <> for not equal. What is the preferred syntax and why?

I like !=, because <> reminds me of Visual Basic.

3/26/2018 9:48:56 AM

Accepted Answer

Technically they function the same if you’re using SQL Server AKA T-SQL. If you're using it in stored procedures there is no performance reason to use one over the other. It then comes down to personal preference. I prefer to use <> as it is ANSI compliant.

You can find links to the various ANSI standards at...

9/1/2017 7:28:15 PM

'<>' is from the SQL-92 standard and '!=' is a proprietary T-SQL operator. It's available in other databases as well, but since it isn't standard you have to take it on a case-by-case basis.

In most cases, you'll know what database you're connecting to so this isn't really an issue. At worst you might have to do a search and replace in your SQL.


The ANSI SQL Standard defines <> as the "not equal to" operator, (5.2 <token> and <separator>)

There is no != operator according to the ANSI/SQL 92 standard.


<> is the valid SQL according to the SQL-92 standard.


It seems that Microsoft themselves prefer <> to != as evidenced in their table constraints. I personally prefer using != because I clearly read that as "not equal", but if you enter [field1 != field2] and save it as a constrait, the next time you query it, it will show up as [field1 <> field2]. This says to me that the correct way to do it is <>.


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