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Query Expressions

Query expressions allow the elements in arrays and other types of sequences to be easily iterated, filtered, and manipulated using a natural syntax which is reminiscent of SQL.

A query expression can take each element in a sequence, manipulate it and produce a new sequence. Query expressions let a developer drill down into nested sequences. For example, a query expression could iterate over each line in a block of text, then each word, then each character, all in one expression. Query expressions provide a variety of useful operations, such as order by, sum, average and group by.

  • Anatomy of a Query Expression describes the structure of all query expressions

  • The With Clause describes how each query expression begins

  • Actions describes how the result of a query expression can be used

  • Operations describes the various operations for filtering or sorting elements

  • Making An Object Queriable shows how to add query support to your own objects

Anatomy of a Query Expression

Every query expression consists of three parts.

  • The with clause specifies the variable name used to hold each element during evaluation, as well as the source of the data for the expression. One or more with clauses are required for every query expression. Multiple with clauses are utilized to dig down into nested sequences.

  • A series of optional operations allow the elements to be filtered or sorted, a number of elements to be skipped, etc. Operators include where, let, skip, take, order by and group by.

  • An action tells Lasso what to do with the elements selected by the expression. Actions include do, select, sum, average, min and max.

Whitespace, including line breaks, is insignificant within the clauses of a query expression. Syntactically, a query expression will begin with the word with and will end when terminated by an action.

Query expressions can be treated as objects. This means they can be assigned to variables and used repeatedly, and can be passed as parameters. Unless otherwise noted, query expressions are evaluated in a lazy manner. This means that creating the query expression does not execute it. It is only when something else attempts to draw elements from the query expression that it begins to generate results.

All local variables available at the location of a query expression's creation are available within the query expresion itself. However, new variables introduced by a query expression clause will not be available outside of the query expression that introduces them.

The With Clause

The with clause always begins with the word with followed by a variable name which is created as a local variable available only within the current query expression. Then follows the word in and then the source data type, which is any type that supports the trait trait_queriable, such as an array or a list. Note that when declaring the variable at the beginning of the with clause, the variable name is given by itself, without the # character, just as if the local were being defined using the standard local construct.

  with variable_name in source

Multiple subsequent with clauses can follow the first. When this occurs, the second with word can optionally be replaced by a comma. Multiple with clauses indicate a nesting of iterations. The following two example snippets are equivalent.

  with variable_name in source
  with another_name in #variable_name

  with variable_name in source,
  another_name in #variable_name


An action clause defines the result of a query expression. Actions permit a sequence to be transformed into a new sequence, or permit sequence elements to be used to compute an aggregate, or permit an arbitrary block of code to be executed for each resulting element.


A select clause permits a new sequence to be generated based upon the source sequence. A select clause consists of the word select followed by a single expression. The expression is evaluated once for each element from the source sequence that makes its way through the query expression. The result of the select's expression will be an element going in to the new sequence.

The following example computes the square of each element in the source array. The select clause expression performs the math to compute the square, the result of which becomes an element in the resulting sequence.

  with n in array(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  select #n*#n

When the query expression above is evaluated, the result will be the numbers: 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, 64, 81.

One query expression can be utilized in another. In the next example, the query expression is assigned to a variable. That variable is used in a subsequent query expression. The first query expresion is not evaluated until the second query expression is evaluated.

  local(qe = with n in array(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
     select #n*#n)

  with newN in #qe
  select #newN*#newN

The resulting sequence from the above would be the numbers: 1, 16, 81, 256, 625, 1296, 2401, 4096, 6561.


A do clause permits a block of code to be executed for each element that makes its way through the query expression. A do clause consists of the word do followed by either a single expression or a code block using either the regular curly bracketed form { } or the auto-collect curly bracketed form {^ ^}. If the code associated with a do consists of more than one expression, the code must be surrounded by curly brackets.

The following examples show how the query expression do clause can be used to manipulate the elements in the source array. Both query expressions operate identically.

  local(ary = array('the', 'quick', 'brown', 'fox',
  'jumped', 'the', 'shark'))
  with n in #ary
  do #n->upperCase

  with n in #ary
  do {

It is important to note that when using do the query is immediately evaluated and that the query expression produces no result value. All other query expression actions are evaluated lazily, only as needed, and produce a result value dependent on the action in question.

The block of code given to a do remains attached to the surrounding method context such that one could return or yield or access and create local variables.


A sum clause is useful when adding all of the resulting query expression elements together. A sum clause consists of the word sum followed by a single expression. The result of the expression will be the value used in the summation. The sum is performed using the + operator, so each element in the sequence must support the addition operator for the sum to succeed. The result of a query expression using sum will be a single value.

The following example uses a sum clause to add together each element from the initial sequence, the resulting value being the integer 45.

  with n in array(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  sum #n


An average clause produces the average of each element that makes its way through the query expression. As expected, using average will take the sum of each element and then divide that value by the number of elements. As with sum, average produces a single result value.

  with n in array(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  average #n

The result of the example above is the number 5.

Min & Max

The min and max clauses produce only the smallest and largest values from the sequence, respectively. The standard < and > operators are used to find the result value.

  with n in array(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  min #n

  with n in array(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  max #n

The result of the first expression is the integer 1. The result of the second expression is the integer 9.


In a query expression, an operation is an optional clause that effects the how the query expression behaves by removing elements from the sequence, by ordering the elements in a certain manner, or by introducing new variables.


A where operation lets elements be included or excluded from further consideration based upon a boolean expression. A where operation will generally run a test on the current element. If the test expression results in false, the element is discarded and the next element is selected and operated upon. If the test expression results in true, the query expression proceeds with the next operation or action in the expression.

A where operation is composed of the word where followed by a single expression. The result of the expression should be boolean true or false.

The following example performs a query expression using the numbers in an array. The where operation filters out all even numbers, leaving only odd numbers for the rest of the query expression. The local variable n holds each number in turn as the expression is evaluated.

  with n in array(0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  where #n % 2 != 0 // ignore even numbers
  select #n

Multiple where operations can be utilized in a query expression. Using multiple with operations is essentially the same as combining the expressions using the && logical and operator. The following two snippets are equivalent, though the third is not.

  with n in array(0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  where #n % 2 != 0 // ignore even numbers
  where #n % 3 != 0 // ignore numbers evenly divisible by 3
  select #n

  with n in array(0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  where #n % 2 != 0 && #n % 3 != 0
  select #n

  with n in array(0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  where #n % 2 != 0 || #n % 3 != 0
  select #n


A let operation introduces a new variable into the query expression. Usually, this is done when evaluating an expression whose value will be be used repeatedly further throughout the query expression. For example, a let operation may evaluate an expression based upon the current iteration variable, assigning the result to a new variable, and then using both further within the query.

Variables introduced within a let operation have the same scope as those introduced in a with clause. That is, they exist only within the query expression.

A let operation consists of the word let followed by a new variable name, the = assignment operator, and then an expression, the result of which the new variable will be assigned.

The following example snippet assigns the square of the current iteration value to a new variable using a let operation.

  with n in array(0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  let n2 = #n * #n
  select #n2

The next example snippet uses both where and let together.

  with n in array(0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  let n2 = #n * #n // square the current value
  where #n2 % 2 != 0 // discard even values using the new variable
  select #n2


A skip operation permits a specified number of values from the source sequence to be skipped. A skip operation consists of the word skip followed by either a literal integer, or an expression which will evaluate to an integer.

The following example snippet skips the first 5 elements from the source container. Only the 6th element and beyond are sent to the remaining portion of the query expression.

  with n in array(0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  skip 5
  select #n


A take operation permits only a certain number of elements to be iterated upon. Elements beyond the specified value are ignored and not sent to the remainder of the query expression. A take operation consists of the word take followed by a literal integer or an expression which will evaluate to an integer.

The following example snippet takes only the first 5 elements from the data source. The remaining elements are ignored.

  with n in array(0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  take 5
  select #n

skip and take can be utilized together to limit the elements over which a query expression will operate to a specific range. The order in which skip and take are specified is significant. Generally, skip is specified before take, though this is not a requirement.

The following example snippet skips the first 3 elements, takes only the next 4 and leaves the rest ignored. This results in only the numbers 3, 4, 5 & 6 for the rest of
the query expression.

  with n in array(0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  skip 3
  take 4
  select #n

The next example snippet shows how the ordering of skip and take are important. This query expression takes only the first 4 elements of the series, though the first 3 of them are skipped. The query after that would produce the same result, but uses skip and take in the reverse order.

  with n in array(0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  take 4
  skip 3
  select #n

  with n in array(0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  skip 3
  take 1
  select #n

In both of the above examples, only the value 3 is sent to the rest of the query.

Order by

Query expressions permit the elements of a series to be ordered in an arbitrary manner by utilizing an order by operation. This is done by using the words order by and then an expression, the result of which is used as the value by which the particular element will be ordered. This can be followed optionally by a direction indicator, which is the word descending or ascending. When a direction is not indicated, ascending order is assumed. Further ordering criteria can be specified by following the initial order by expression with a comma, and then the next ordering expression and optional direction indicator.

The following example snippet orders the elements in the array using the default ascending order. The next, in descending order.

  with n in array(9, 2, 1, 3, 5, 4, 6, 7, 0, 8)
  order by #n
  select #n

  with n in array(9, 2, 1, 3, 5, 4, 6, 7, 0, 8)
  order by #n descending
  select #n

The expression provided to order by can be any arbitrary expression. This permits elements to be ordered in any manner as desired by the developer. For example, a series of string objects could be ordered based upon their lengths, or elements could be randomly ordered based upon a random number generated for this purpose.

  with n in array('the', 'quick', 'brown', 'fox',
       'jumped', 'the', 'shark')
  order by #n->size
  select #n

  with n in array(0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  order by integer_random(0, 99)
  select #n

In the next example snippet, a series of user objects, represented by their first and last names, could be ordered in an alphabetical manner.

  with n in array('Krinn'='Jones', 'Ármarinn'='Hammershaimb',
       'Kjarni'='Jones', 'Halbjörg'='Skywalker',
       'Björg'='Riley', 'Hjörtur'='Hammershaimb')
  order by #n->second, #n->first
  select #n

Group by

A group by clause permits similar elements to be grouped together by a particular key expression and represented as a single object called a queriable_grouping. This new object can be further utilized throughout the query expression. A queriable_grouping object maintains a reference to each of the original elements within the group. It also possesses a ->key() method which produces the value by which the particular elements were mutually grouped.

A group by consists of three elements: the object going into the group, the key by which the objects are grouped, and a new local variable name. This new variable name will be introduced into the query expression for further use and will be a queriable_grouping object. It has the following form.

group new_object_expression by key_expression into new_local_name

A group by operation makes most sense when used with other operations and actions. The following example takes a series of users, represented by first and last name, and performs a query expression over them.

  with n in array('Jones'='Krinn', 'Hammershaimb'='Ármarinn',
       'Jones'='Kjarni', 'Skywalker'='Halbjörg',
       'Riley'='Björg', 'Hammershaimb'='Hjörtur')
  let swapped = pair(#n->second, #n->first)
  group #swapped by #n->first into g
  let key = #g->key
  order by #key
  select pair(#key, #g)

The example above example breaks down into 6 steps:

  1. with n in array('Jones'='Krinn', 'Hammershaimb'='Ármarinn', 'Jones'='Kjarni', 'Skywalker'='Halbjörg', 'Riley'='Björg', 'Hammershaimb'='Hjörtur')

  2. let swapped = pair(#n->second, #n->first)

  3. group #swapped by #n->first into g

  4. let key = #g->key

  5. order by #key

  6. select pair(#key, #g)

1. Begin the query expression using #n as the variable to hold each initial element from the source array. There are 6 elements in the source array, so #n will start off pointing to the first element. Once the query expression completes its first iteration, #n will point to the second element and the query will perform another iteration, and so on, until the end of the array is reached.

2. Create a new pair containing the swapped last and first names. Name this #swapped.

3. Group each of the new user pairs by last name. #n->second is used as the key. It still contains the original last name. From this point forward, no previously introduced variables are available. Only #g exists now. It will contain each queriable_grouping object generated by the group by clause at this step (3).

4. Access the grouping key for the current value of #g. Save it into #key.

5. Order/sort the resulting grouping objects by #key, which contains the last name. Thus, all of the resulting group objects will come out of the query expression ordered alphabetically by last name.

6. Finally, create a new pair containing #key and the grouping object and select that, making the new pair one of the new elements in the result of the query expression.

The result of the example query expression looks as so. Notice how the results for 'Hammershaimb' and 'Jones' each contain both of the users in those groups.

(Hammershaimb = (Ármarinn = Hammershaimb), (Hjörtur = Hammershaimb)),
(Jones = (Krinn = Jones), (Kjarni = Jones)),
(Riley = (Björg = Riley)),
(Skywalker = (Halbjörg = Skywalker))

Making an Object Queriable

An object can be utilized in the with clause of a query expression if it has the trait trait_queriable. For this, an object must implement the method ->forEach(). This method is always called with a givenBlock. Within the ->forEach() method, the object being queried should invoke the givenBlock, passing it each available element in turn.

The following example implements a user list object. This object can be used in queries. For the sake of this example, it permits iteration over a fixed list of users, which it provides to the query one by one.

// define the user_list type
  define user_list => type {
    trait { import trait_queriable }
    public forEach() => {
      local(gb = givenBlock)
      // provide the 6 users one at a time
  // create a user_list object
  local(ul = user_list)
  // use it in a query
  with user in #ul
  select #user->first


Above, the example code creates a user_list object and then uses it in a simple query expression. The result of the expression is the sequence of names: Krinn, Ármarinn, Kjarni, Halbjörg, Björg, Hjörtur.

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