Query operations in DynamoDB - Amazon DynamoDB

Query operations in DynamoDB

The Query operation in Amazon DynamoDB finds items based on primary key values.

You must provide the name of the partition key attribute and a single value for that attribute. Query returns all items with that partition key value. Optionally, you can provide a sort key attribute and use a comparison operator to refine the search results.

For more information on how to use Query, such as the request syntax, response parameters, and additional examples, see Query in the Amazon DynamoDB API Reference.

Key condition expressions for query

To specify the search criteria, you use a key condition expression—a string that determines the items to be read from the table or index.

You must specify the partition key name and value as an equality condition. You cannot use a non-key attribute in a Key Condition Expression.

You can optionally provide a second condition for the sort key (if present). The sort key condition must use one of the following comparison operators:

  • a = b — true if the attribute a is equal to the value b

  • a < b — true if a is less than b

  • a <= b — true if a is less than or equal to b

  • a > b — true if a is greater than b

  • a >= b — true if a is greater than or equal to b

  • a BETWEEN b AND c — true if a is greater than or equal to b, and less than or equal to c.

The following function is also supported:

  • begins_with (a, substr)— true if the value of attribute a begins with a particular substring.

The following AWS Command Line Interface (AWS CLI) examples demonstrate the use of key condition expressions. These expressions use placeholders (such as :name and :sub) instead of actual values. For more information, see Expression attribute names in DynamoDB and Expression attribute values.


Query the Thread table for a particular ForumName (partition key). All of the items with that ForumName value are read by the query because the sort key (Subject) is not included in KeyConditionExpression.

aws dynamodb query \ --table-name Thread \ --key-condition-expression "ForumName = :name" \ --expression-attribute-values '{":name":{"S":"Amazon DynamoDB"}}'

Query the Thread table for a particular ForumName (partition key), but this time return only the items with a given Subject (sort key).

aws dynamodb query \ --table-name Thread \ --key-condition-expression "ForumName = :name and Subject = :sub" \ --expression-attribute-values file://values.json

The arguments for --expression-attribute-values are stored in the values.json file.

{ ":name":{"S":"Amazon DynamoDB"}, ":sub":{"S":"DynamoDB Thread 1"} }

Query the Reply table for a particular Id (partition key), but return only those items whose ReplyDateTime (sort key) begins with certain characters.

aws dynamodb query \ --table-name Reply \ --key-condition-expression "Id = :id and begins_with(ReplyDateTime, :dt)" \ --expression-attribute-values file://values.json

The arguments for --expression-attribute-values are stored in the values.json file.

{ ":id":{"S":"Amazon DynamoDB#DynamoDB Thread 1"}, ":dt":{"S":"2015-09"} }

You can use any attribute name in a key condition expression, provided that the first character is a-z or A-Z and the rest of the characters (starting from the second character, if present) are a-z, A-Z, or 0-9. In addition, the attribute name must not be a DynamoDB reserved word. (For a complete list of these, see Reserved words in DynamoDB.) If an attribute name does not meet these requirements, you must define an expression attribute name as a placeholder. For more information, see Expression attribute names in DynamoDB.

For items with a given partition key value, DynamoDB stores these items close together, in sorted order by sort key value. In a Query operation, DynamoDB retrieves the items in sorted order, and then processes the items using KeyConditionExpression and any FilterExpression that might be present. Only then are the Query results sent back to the client.

A Query operation always returns a result set. If no matching items are found, the result set is empty.

Query results are always sorted by the sort key value. If the data type of the sort key is Number, the results are returned in numeric order. Otherwise, the results are returned in order of UTF-8 bytes. By default, the sort order is ascending. To reverse the order, set the ScanIndexForward parameter to false.

A single Query operation can retrieve a maximum of 1 MB of data. This limit applies before any FilterExpression or ProjectionExpression is applied to the results. If LastEvaluatedKey is present in the response and is non-null, you must paginate the result set (see Paginating table query results).

Filter expressions for query

If you need to further refine the Query results, you can optionally provide a filter expression. A filter expression determines which items within the Query results should be returned to you. All of the other results are discarded.

A filter expression is applied after a Query finishes, but before the results are returned. Therefore, a Query consumes the same amount of read capacity, regardless of whether a filter expression is present.

A Query operation can retrieve a maximum of 1 MB of data. This limit applies before the filter expression is evaluated.

A filter expression cannot contain partition key or sort key attributes. You need to specify those attributes in the key condition expression, not the filter expression.

The syntax for a filter expression is similar to that of a key condition expression. Filter expressions can use the same comparators, functions, and logical operators as a key condition expression. In addition, filter expressions can use the not-equals operator (<>), the OR operator, the CONTAINS operator, the IN operator, the BEGINS_WITH operator, the BETWEEN operator, the EXISTS operator, and the SIZE operator. For more information, see Key condition expressions for query and Syntax for filter and condition expressions.


The following AWS CLI example queries the Thread table for a particular ForumName (partition key) and Subject (sort key). Of the items that are found, only the most popular discussion threads are returned—in other words, only those threads with more than a certain number of Views.

aws dynamodb query \ --table-name Thread \ --key-condition-expression "ForumName = :fn and Subject = :sub" \ --filter-expression "#v >= :num" \ --expression-attribute-names '{"#v": "Views"}' \ --expression-attribute-values file://values.json

The arguments for --expression-attribute-values are stored in the values.json file.

{ ":fn":{"S":"Amazon DynamoDB"}, ":sub":{"S":"DynamoDB Thread 1"}, ":num":{"N":"3"} }

Note that Views is a reserved word in DynamoDB (see Reserved words in DynamoDB), so this example uses #v as a placeholder. For more information, see Expression attribute names in DynamoDB.


A filter expression removes items from the Query result set. If possible, avoid using Query where you expect to retrieve a large number of items but also need to discard most of those items.

Limiting the number of items in the result set

The Query operation allows you to limit the number of items that it reads. To do this, set the Limit parameter to the maximum number of items that you want.

For example, suppose that you Query a table, with a Limit value of 6, and without a filter expression. The Query result contains the first six items from the table that match the key condition expression from the request.

Now suppose that you add a filter expression to the Query. In this case, DynamoDB reads up to six items, and then returns only those that match the filter expression. The final Query result contains six items or fewer, even if more items would have matched the filter expression if DynamoDB had kept reading more items.

Counting the items in the results

In addition to the items that match your criteria, the Query response contains the following elements:

  • ScannedCount — The number of items that matched the key condition expression before a filter expression (if present) was applied.

  • Count — The number of items that remain after a filter expression (if present) was applied.


If you don't use a filter expression, ScannedCount and Count have the same value.

If the size of the Query result set is larger than 1 MB, ScannedCount and Count represent only a partial count of the total items. You need to perform multiple Query operations to retrieve all the results (see Paginating table query results).

Each Query response contains the ScannedCount and Count for the items that were processed by that particular Query request. To obtain grand totals for all of the Query requests, you could keep a running tally of both ScannedCount and Count.

Capacity units consumed by query

You can Query any table or secondary index, provided that it has a composite primary key (partition key and sort key). Query operations consume read capacity units, as follows.

If you Query a... DynamoDB consumes read capacity units from...
Table The table's provisioned read capacity.
Global secondary index The index's provisioned read capacity.
Local secondary index The base table's provisioned read capacity.

By default, a Query operation does not return any data on how much read capacity it consumes. However, you can specify the ReturnConsumedCapacity parameter in a Query request to obtain this information. The following are the valid settings for ReturnConsumedCapacity:

  • NONE — No consumed capacity data is returned. (This is the default.)

  • TOTAL — The response includes the aggregate number of read capacity units consumed.

  • INDEXES — The response shows the aggregate number of read capacity units consumed, together with the consumed capacity for each table and index that was accessed.

DynamoDB calculates the number of read capacity units consumed based on item size, not on the amount of data that is returned to an application. For this reason, the number of capacity units consumed is the same whether you request all of the attributes (the default behavior) or just some of them (using a projection expression). The number is also the same whether or not you use a filter expression. Query consumes a minimum read capacity unit (0.5 with default eventually consistent, 1.0 with strongly consistent) for each partition involved in servicing the request - this includes partitions which do not contain any items.

Read consistency for query

A Query operation performs eventually consistent reads, by default. This means that the Query results might not reflect changes due to recently completed PutItem or UpdateItem operations. For more information, see Read consistency.

If you require strongly consistent reads, set the ConsistentRead parameter to true in the Query request.