WHERE Statement

Selects observations from SAS data sets that meet a particular condition.
Valid in: DATA step and PROC step
Category: Action
Type: Declarative



is an arithmetic or logical expression that generally consists of a sequence of operands and operators.
Tips:The operands and operators described in the next several sections are also valid for the WHERE= data set option.

You can specify multiple where-expressions.

can be AND, AND NOT, OR, or OR NOT.


The Basics

Using the WHERE statement might improve the efficiency of your SAS programs because SAS is not required to read all observations from the input data set.
The WHERE statement cannot be executed conditionally. That is, you cannot use it as part of an IF-THEN statement.
WHERE statements can contain multiple WHERE expressions that are joined by logical operators.
Note: Using indexed SAS data sets can significantly improve performance when you use WHERE expressions to access a subset of the observations in a SAS data set. See Understanding SAS Indexes in SAS Language Reference: Concepts for a complete discussion of WHERE-expression processing with indexed data sets and a list of guidelines to consider before you index your SAS data sets.

In DATA Steps

The WHERE statement applies to all data sets in the preceding SET, MERGE, MODIFY, or UPDATE statement, and variables that are used in the WHERE statement must appear in all of those data sets. You cannot use the WHERE statement with the POINT= option in the SET and MODIFY statements.
You can apply OBS= and FIRSTOBS= processing to WHERE processing. For more information, see Processing a Segment of Data That Is Conditionally Selected in SAS Language Reference: Concepts.
You cannot use the WHERE statement to select records from an external file that contains raw data, nor can you use the WHERE statement within the same DATA step in which you read in-stream data with a DATALINES statement.
For each iteration of the DATA step, the first operation SAS performs in each execution of a SET, MERGE, MODIFY, or UPDATE statement is to determine whether the observation in the input data set meets the condition of the WHERE statement. The WHERE statement takes effect immediately after the input data set options are applied and before any other statement in the DATA step is executed. If a DATA step combines observations using a WHERE statement with a MERGE, MODIFY, or UPDATE statement, SAS selects observations from each input data set before it combines them.

WHERE and BY in a DATA Step

If a DATA step contains both a WHERE statement and a BY statement, the WHERE statement executes before BY groups are created. Therefore, BY groups reflect groups of observations in the subset of observations that are selected by the WHERE statement, not the actual BY groups of observations in the original input data set.
For a complete discussion of BY-group processing, see By-Group Processing in SAS Programs in SAS Language Reference: Concepts.

In PROC Steps

You can use the WHERE statement with any SAS procedure that reads a SAS data set. The WHERE statement is useful in order to subset the original data set for processing by the procedure. The Base SAS Procedures Guide documents the action of the WHERE statement only in those procedures for which you can specify more than one data set. In all other cases, the WHERE statement performs as documented here.

Use of Indexes

A DATA or PROC step attempts to use an available index to optimize the selection of data when an indexed variable is used in combination with one of the following operators and functions:
  • the BETWEEN-AND operator
  • the comparison operators, with or without the colon modifier
  • the CONTAINS operator
  • the IS NULL and IS NOT NULL operators
  • the LIKE operator
  • the TRIM function
  • the SUBSTR function, in some cases.
SUBSTR requires the following arguments:
where substr(variable,position,length)
An index is used in processing when the arguments of the SUBSTR function meet all of the following conditions:
  • position is equal to 1
  • length is less than or equal to the length of variable
  • length is equal to the length of character-string.

Operands Used in WHERE Expressions

Operands in WHERE expressions can contain the following values:
  • constants
  • time and date values
  • values of variables that are obtained from the SAS data sets
  • values created within the WHERE expression itself.
You cannot use variables that are created within the DATA step (for example, FIRST.variable, LAST.variable, _N_, or variables that are created in assignment statements) in a WHERE expression because the WHERE statement is executed before the SAS System brings observations into the DATA or PROC step. When WHERE expressions contain comparisons, the unformatted values of variables are compared.
The following are examples of using operands in WHERE expressions:
  • where score>50;
  • where date>='01jan1999'd and time>='9:00't;
  • where state='Mississippi';
As in other SAS expressions, the names of numeric variables can stand alone. SAS treats values of 0 or missing as false; other values are true. These examples are WHERE expressions that contain the numeric variables EMPNUM and SSN:
  • where empnum;
  • where empnum and ssn;
Character literals or the names of character variables can also stand alone in WHERE expressions. If you use the name of a character variable by itself as a WHERE expression, SAS selects observations where the value of the character variable is not blank.

Operators Used in the WHERE Expression

You can include both SAS operators and special WHERE-expression operators in the WHERE statement. For a complete list of the operators, see WHERE Statement Operators. For the rules that SAS follows when it evaluates WHERE expressions, see WHERE-Expression Processing in SAS Language Reference: Concepts.
WHERE Statement Operators
Operator Type
Symbol or Mnemonic
Comparison 4
= or EQ
equal to
^=, ¬=, ~=, or NE1
not equal to
> or GT
greater than
< or LT
less than
>= or GE
greater than or equal to
<= or LE
less than or equal to
equal to one of a list
Logical (Boolean)
& or AND
logical and
| or OR2
logical or3
~,^ , ¬, or NOT1
logical not
concatenation of character variables
( )
indicate order of evaluation
+ prefix
positive number
− prefix
negative number
WHERE Expression Only
an inclusive range
a character string
missing values
match patterns
add clauses to an existing WHERE statement without retyping original one
1The caret (^), tilde (~), and the not sign (¬ ) all indicate a logical not. Use the character available on your keyboard, or use the mnemonic equivalent.
2The OR symbol ( | ), broken vertical bar ( | ), and exclamation point (!) all indicate a logical or. Use the character available on your keyboard, or use the mnemonic equivalent.
3Two OR symbols (| | ), two broken vertical bars ( | | ), or two exclamation points (!!) indicate concatenation. Use the character available on your keyboard.
4You can use the colon modifier (:) with any of the comparison operators in order to compare only a specified prefix of a character string.


  • You can use the WHERE command in SAS/FSP software to subset data for editing and browsing. You can use both the WHERE statement and WHERE= data set option in windowing procedures and in conjunction with the WHERE command.
  • To select observations from individual data sets when a SET, MERGE, MODIFY, or UPDATE statement specifies more than one data set, apply a WHERE= data set option to each data set. In the DATA step, if a WHERE statement and a WHERE= data set option apply to the same data set, SAS uses the data set option and ignores the statement for that data set. Other data sets without a WHERE data set option use the statement.
  • The most important differences between the WHERE statement in the DATA step and the subsetting IF statement are as follows:
    • The WHERE statement selects observations before they are brought into the program data vector, making it a more efficient programming technique. The subsetting IF statement works on observations after they are read into the program data vector.
    • The WHERE statement can produce a different data set from the subsetting IF when a BY statement accompanies a SET, MERGE, or UPDATE statement. The different data set occurs because SAS creates BY groups before the subsetting IF statement selects but after the WHERE statement selects.
    • The WHERE statement cannot be executed conditionally as part of an IF statement, but the subsetting IF statement can.
    • The WHERE statement selects observations in SAS data sets only, whereas the subsetting IF statement selects observations from an existing SAS data set or from observations that are created with an INPUT statement.
    • The subsetting IF statement cannot be used in SAS windowing procedures to subset observations for browsing or editing.
  • Do not confuse the WHERE statement with the DROP or KEEP statement. The DROP and KEEP statements select variables for processing. The WHERE statement selects observations.


Example 1: Basic WHERE Statement Usage

This DATA step produces a SAS data set that contains only observations from data set CUSTOMER in which the value for NAME begins with Mac and the value for CITY is Charleston or Atlanta.
data testmacs;
   set customer;
   where substr(name,1,3)='Mac' and
      (city='Charleston' or city='Atlanta');

Example 2: Using Operators Available Only in the WHERE Statement

  • Using BETWEEN-AND:
    where empnum between 500 and 1000;
  • Using CONTAINS:
    where company ? 'bay';
    where company contains 'bay';
  • Using IS NULL and IS MISSING:
    where name is null;
    where name is missing;
  • Using LIKE to select all names that start with the letter D:
    where name like 'D%';
  • Using LIKE to match patterns from a list of the following names:
    WHERE Statement
    Name Selected
    where name like 'D_an';
    where name like 'D_an_';
    Diana, Diane
    where name like 'D_an__';
    where name like 'D_an%';
    all names from list
  • Using the Sounds-like Operator to select names that sound like “Smith”:
    where lastname=*'Smith';
  • Using SAME-AND:
    where year>1991;
    ...more SAS statements...
    where same and year<1999;
    In this example, the second WHERE statement is equivalent to the following WHERE statement:
    where year>1991 and year<1999;

See Also

SAS SQL Query Window User's Guide
SAS/IML User's Guide
Base SAS Procedures Guide
Understanding SAS Indexes in SAS Language Reference: Concepts
WHERE-Expression Processing in SAS Language Reference: Concepts
By-Group Processing in SAS Programs in SAS Language Reference: Concepts
Data Set Options:
WHERE= Data Set Option in SAS Data Set Options: Reference