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Creates a new table and specifies its characteristics. While creating a table, you optionally specify aspects such as:

  • Whether the table is internal or external.
  • The columns and associated data types.
  • The columns used for physically partitioning the data.
  • The file format for data files.
  • The HDFS directory where the data files are located.


The general syntax for creating a table and specifying its columns is as follows:

Explicit column definitions:

CREATE [EXTERNAL] TABLE [IF NOT EXISTS] [db_name.]table_name
  (col_name data_type [COMMENT 'col_comment'], ...)
  [PARTITIONED BY (col_name data_type [COMMENT 'col_comment'], ...)]
  [COMMENT 'table_comment']
  [WITH SERDEPROPERTIES ('key1'='value1', 'key2'='value2', ...)]
   [ROW FORMAT row_format] [STORED AS file_format]
  [LOCATION 'hdfs_path']
  [TBLPROPERTIES ('key1'='value1', 'key2'='value2', ...)]
  [CACHED IN 'pool_name']

Column definitions inferred from data file:

CREATE [EXTERNAL] TABLE [IF NOT EXISTS] [db_name.]table_name
  LIKE PARQUET 'hdfs_path_of_parquet_file'
  [COMMENT 'table_comment']
  [PARTITIONED BY (col_name data_type [COMMENT 'col_comment'], ...)]
  [WITH SERDEPROPERTIES ('key1'='value1', 'key2'='value2', ...)]
   [ROW FORMAT row_format] [STORED AS file_format]
  [LOCATION 'hdfs_path']
  [TBLPROPERTIES ('key1'='value1', 'key2'='value2', ...)]
  [CACHED IN 'pool_name']
  : primitive_type


  [COMMENT 'table_comment']
  [WITH SERDEPROPERTIES ('key1'='value1', 'key2'='value2', ...)]
   [ROW FORMAT row_format] [STORED AS ctas_file_format]
  [LOCATION 'hdfs_path']
  [TBLPROPERTIES ('key1'='value1', 'key2'='value2', ...)]
  [CACHED IN 'pool_name']
  | INT
  | CHAR


  | AVRO


Statement type: DDL

Column definitions:

Depending on the form of the CREATE TABLE statement, the column definitions are required or not allowed.

With the CREATE TABLE AS SELECT and CREATE TABLE LIKE syntax, you do not specify the columns at all; the column names and types are derived from the source table, query, or data file.

With the basic CREATE TABLE syntax, you must list one or more columns, its name, type, and optionally a comment, in addition to any columns used as partitioning keys. There is one exception where the column list is not required: when creating an Avro table with the STORED AS AVRO clause, you can omit the list of columns and specify the same metadata as part of the TBLPROPERTIES clause.

Internal and external tables (EXTERNAL and LOCATION clauses):

By default, Impala creates an "internal" table, where Impala manages the underlying data files for the table, and physically deletes the data files when you drop the table. If you specify the EXTERNAL clause, Impala treats the table as an "external" table, where the data files are typically produced outside Impala and queried from their original locations in HDFS, and Impala leaves the data files in place when you drop the table. For details about internal and external tables, see Overview of Impala Tables.

Typically, for an external table you include a LOCATION clause to specify the path to the HDFS directory where Impala reads and writes files for the table. For example, if your data pipeline produces Parquet files in the HDFS directory /user/etl/destination, you might create an external table as follows:

  STORED AS PARQUET LOCATION '/user/etl/destination';

Although the EXTERNAL and LOCATION clauses are often specified together, LOCATION is optional for external tables, and you can also specify LOCATION for internal tables. The difference is all about whether Impala "takes control" of the underlying data files and moves them when you rename the table, or deletes them when you drop the table. For more about internal and external tables and how they interact with the LOCATION attribute, see Internal Tables.

Partitioned tables (PARTITIONED BY clause):

The PARTITIONED BY clause divides the data files based on the values from one or more specified columns. Impala queries can use the partition metadata to minimize the amount of data that is read from disk or transmitted across the network, particularly during join queries. For details about partitioning, see Partitioning for Impala Tables.

Specifying file format (STORED AS and ROW FORMAT clauses):

The STORED AS clause identifies the format of the underlying data files. Currently, Impala can query more types of file formats than it can create or insert into. Use Hive to perform any create or data load operations that are not currently available in Impala. For example, Impala can create a SequenceFile table but cannot insert data into it. There are also Impala-specific procedures for using compression with each kind of file format. For details about working with data files of various formats, see How Impala Works with Hadoop File Formats.

  Note: In Impala 1.4.0 and higher, Impala can create Avro tables, which formerly required doing the CREATE TABLE statement in Hive. See Using the Avro File Format with Impala Tables for details and examples.

By default (when no STORED AS clause is specified), data files in Impala tables are created as text files with Ctrl-A (hex 01) characters as the delimiter. Specify the ROW FORMAT DELIMITED clause to produce or ingest data files that use a different delimiter character such as tab or |, or a different line end character such as carriage return or newline. When specifying delimiter and line end characters with the FIELDS TERMINATED BY and LINES TERMINATED BY clauses, use '\t' for tab, '\n' for newline or linefeed, '\r' for carriage return, and \0 for ASCII nul (hex 00). For more examples of text tables, see Using Text Data Files with Impala Tables.

The ESCAPED BY clause applies both to text files that you create through an INSERT statement to an Impala TEXTFILE table, and to existing data files that you put into an Impala table directory. (You can ingest existing data files either by creating the table with CREATE EXTERNAL TABLE ... LOCATION, the LOAD DATA statement, or through an HDFS operation such as hdfs dfs -put file hdfs_path.) Choose an escape character that is not used anywhere else in the file, and put it in front of each instance of the delimiter character that occurs within a field value. Surrounding field values with quotation marks does not help Impala to parse fields with embedded delimiter characters; the quotation marks are considered to be part of the column value. If you want to use \ as the escape character, specify the clause in impala-shell as ESCAPED BY '\\'.

  Note: The CREATE TABLE clauses FIELDS TERMINATED BY, ESCAPED BY, and LINES TERMINATED BY have special rules for the string literal used for their argument, because they all require a single character. You can use a regular character surrounded by single or double quotation marks, an octal sequence such as '\054' (representing a comma), or an integer in the range '-127'..'128' (with quotation marks but no backslash), which is interpreted as a single-byte ASCII character. Negative values are subtracted from 256; for example, FIELDS TERMINATED BY '-2' sets the field delimiter to ASCII code 254, the "Icelandic Thorn" character used as a delimiter by some data formats.

Cloning tables (LIKE clause):

To create an empty table with the same columns, comments, and other attributes as another table, use the following variation. The CREATE TABLE ... LIKE form allows a restricted set of clauses, currently only the LOCATION, COMMENT, and STORED AS clauses.

CREATE [EXTERNAL] TABLE [IF NOT EXISTS] [db_name.]table_name
  LIKE { [db_name.]table_name | PARQUET 'hdfs_path_of_parquet_file' }
  [COMMENT 'table_comment']
  [STORED AS file_format]
  [LOCATION 'hdfs_path']

To clone the structure of a table and transfer data into it in a single operation, use the CREATE TABLE AS SELECT syntax described in the next subsection.

When you clone the structure of an existing table using the CREATE TABLE ... LIKE syntax, the new table keeps the same file format as the original one, so you only need to specify the STORED AS clause if you want to use a different file format, or when specifying a view as the original table. (Creating a table "like" a view produces a text table by default.)

Although normally Impala cannot create an HBase table directly, Impala can clone the structure of an existing HBase table with the CREATE TABLE ... LIKE syntax, preserving the file format and metadata from the original table.

There are some exceptions to the ability to use CREATE TABLE ... LIKE with an Avro table. For example, you cannot use this technique for an Avro table that is specified with an Avro schema but no columns. When in doubt, check if a CREATE TABLE ... LIKE operation works in Hive; if not, it typically will not work in Impala either.

If the original table is partitioned, the new table inherits the same partition key columns. Because the new table is initially empty, it does not inherit the actual partitions that exist in the original one. To create partitions in the new table, insert data or issue ALTER TABLE ... ADD PARTITION statements.

Prior to Impala 1.4.0, it was not possible to use the CREATE TABLE LIKE view_name syntax. In Impala 1.4.0 and higher, you can create a table with the same column definitions as a view using the CREATE TABLE LIKE technique. Although CREATE TABLE LIKE normally inherits the file format of the original table, a view has no underlying file format, so CREATE TABLE LIKE view_name produces a text table by default. To specify a different file format, include a STORED AS file_format clause at the end of the CREATE TABLE LIKE statement.

Because CREATE TABLE ... LIKE only manipulates table metadata, not the physical data of the table, issue INSERT INTO TABLE statements afterward to copy any data from the original table into the new one, optionally converting the data to a new file format. (For some file formats, Impala can do a CREATE TABLE ... LIKE to create the table, but Impala cannot insert data in that file format; in these cases, you must load the data in Hive. See How Impala Works with Hadoop File Formats for details.)


The CREATE TABLE AS SELECT syntax is a shorthand notation to create a table based on column definitions from another table, and copy data from the source table to the destination table without issuing any separate INSERT statement. This idiom is so popular that it has its own acronym, "CTAS".

See SELECT Statement for details about query syntax for the SELECT portion of a CREATE TABLE AS SELECT statement.

The newly created table inherits the column names that you select from the original table, which you can override by specifying column aliases in the query. Any column or table comments from the original table are not carried over to the new table.

Sorting considerations: Although you can specify an ORDER BY clause in an INSERT ... SELECT statement, any ORDER BY clause is ignored and the results are not necessarily sorted. An INSERT ... SELECT operation potentially creates many different data files, prepared on different data nodes, and therefore the notion of the data being stored in sorted order is impractical.

For example, the following statements show how you can clone all the data in a table, or a subset of the columns and/or rows, or reorder columns, rename them, or construct them out of expressions:

-- Create new table and copy all data.
-- Same idea as CREATE TABLE LIKE, do not copy any data.
CREATE TABLE empty_clone_of_t1 AS SELECT * FROM t1 WHERE 1=0;
-- Copy some data.
CREATE TABLE subset_of_t1 AS SELECT * FROM t1 WHERE x > 100 AND y LIKE 'A%';
CREATE TABLE summary_of_t1 AS SELECT c1, sum(c2) AS total, avg(c2) AS average FROM t1 GROUP BY c2;
-- Switch file format.
-- Create tables with different column order, names, or types than the original.
CREATE TABLE some_columns_from_t1 AS SELECT c1, c3, c5 FROM t1;
CREATE TABLE reordered_columns_from_t1 AS SELECT c4, c3, c1, c2 FROM t1;
CREATE TABLE synthesized_columns AS SELECT upper(c1) AS all_caps, c2+c3 AS total, "California" AS state FROM t1;

As part of a CTAS operation, you can convert the data to any file format that Impala can write (currently, TEXTFILE and PARQUET). You cannot specify the lower-level properties of a text table, such as the delimiter. Although you can use a partitioned table as the source and copy data from it, you cannot specify any partitioning clauses for the new table.


The variation CREATE TABLE ... LIKE PARQUET 'hdfs_path_of_parquet_file' lets you skip the column definitions of the CREATE TABLE statement. The column names and data types are automatically configured based on the organization of the specified Parquet data file, which must already reside in HDFS. You can use a data file located outside the Impala database directories, or a file from an existing Impala Parquet table; either way, Impala only uses the column definitions from the file and does not use the HDFS location for the LOCATION attribute of the new table. (Although you can also specify the enclosing directory with the LOCATION attribute, to both use the same schema as the data file and point the Impala table at the associated directory for querying.)

The following considerations apply when you use the CREATE TABLE LIKE PARQUET technique:

  • Any column comments from the original table are not preserved in the new table. Each column in the new table has a comment stating the low-level Parquet field type used to deduce the appropriate SQL column type.
  • If you use a data file from a partitioned Impala table, any partition key columns from the original table are left out of the new table, because they are represented in HDFS directory names rather than stored in the data file. To preserve the partition information, repeat the same PARTITION clause as in the original CREATE TABLE statement.
  • The file format of the new table defaults to text, as with other kinds of CREATE TABLE statements. To make the new table also use Parquet format, include the clause STORED AS PARQUET in the CREATE TABLE LIKE PARQUET statement.
  • If the Parquet data file comes from an existing Impala table, currently, any TINYINT or SMALLINT columns are turned into INT columns in the new table. Internally, Parquet stores such values as 32-bit integers.
  • When the destination table uses the Parquet file format, the CREATE TABLE AS SELECT and INSERT ... SELECT statements always create at least one data file, even if the SELECT part of the statement does not match any rows. You can use such an empty Parquet data file as a template for subsequent CREATE TABLE LIKE PARQUET statements.

For more details about creating Parquet tables, and examples of the CREATE TABLE LIKE PARQUET syntax, see Using the Parquet File Format with Impala Tables.

Visibility and Metadata (TBLPROPERTIES and WITH SERDEPROPERTIES clauses):

You can associate arbitrary items of metadata with a table by specifying the TBLPROPERTIES clause. This clause takes a comma-separated list of key-value pairs and stores those items in the metastore database. You can also change the table properties later with an ALTER TABLE statement. You can observe the table properties for different delimiter and escape characters using the DESCRIBE FORMATTED command, and change those settings for an existing table with ALTER TABLE ... SET TBLPROPERTIES.

You can also associate SerDes properties with the table by specifying key-value pairs through the WITH SERDEPROPERTIES clause. This metadata is not used by Impala, which has its own built-in serializer and deserializer for the file formats it supports. Particular property values might be needed for Hive compatibility with certain variations of file formats, particularly Avro.

Some DDL operations that interact with other Hadoop components require specifying particular values in the SERDEPROPERTIES or TBLPROPERTIES fields, such as creating an Avro table or an HBase table. (You typically create HBase tables in Hive, because they require additional clauses not currently available in Impala.)

To see the column definitions and column comments for an existing table, for example before issuing a CREATE TABLE ... LIKE or a CREATE TABLE ... AS SELECT statement, issue the statement DESCRIBE table_name. To see even more detail, such as the location of data files and the values for clauses such as ROW FORMAT and STORED AS, issue the statement DESCRIBE FORMATTED table_name. DESCRIBE FORMATTED is also needed to see any overall table comment (as opposed to individual column comments).

After creating a table, your impala-shell session or another impala-shell connected to the same node can immediately query that table. There might be a brief interval (one statestore heartbeat) before the table can be queried through a different Impala node. To make the CREATE TABLE statement return only when the table is recognized by all Impala nodes in the cluster, enable the SYNC_DDL query option.

HDFS caching (CACHED IN clause):

If you specify the CACHED IN clause, any existing or future data files in the table directory or the partition subdirectories are designated to be loaded into memory with the HDFS caching mechanism. See Using HDFS Caching with Impala (CDH 5.1 or higher only) for details about using the HDFS caching feature.

Hive considerations:

Impala queries can make use of metadata about the table and columns, such as the number of rows in a table or the number of different values in a column. Prior to Impala 1.2.2, to create this metadata, you issued the ANALYZE TABLE statement in Hive to gather this information, after creating the table and loading representative data into it. In Impala 1.2.2 and higher, the COMPUTE STATS statement produces these statistics within Impala, without needing to use Hive at all.

Column order:

If you intend to use the table to hold data files produced by some external source, specify the columns in the same order as they appear in the data files.

If you intend to insert or copy data into the table through Impala, or if you have control over the way externally produced data files are arranged, use your judgment to specify columns in the most convenient order:

  • If certain columns are often NULL, specify those columns last. You might produce data files that omit these trailing columns entirely. Impala automatically fills in the NULL values if so.

  • If an unpartitioned table will be used as the source for an INSERT ... SELECT operation into a partitioned table, specify last in the unpartitioned table any columns that correspond to partition key columns in the partitioned table, and in the same order as the partition key columns are declared in the partitioned table. This technique lets you use INSERT ... SELECT * when copying data to the partitioned table, rather than specifying each column name individually.

  • If you specify columns in an order that you later discover is suboptimal, you can sometimes work around the problem without recreating the table. You can create a view that selects columns from the original table in a permuted order, then do a SELECT * from the view. When inserting data into a table, you can specify a permuted order for the inserted columns to match the order in the destination table.

HBase considerations:


The Impala CREATE TABLE statement cannot create an HBase table, because it currently does not support the STORED BY clause needed for HBase tables. Create such tables in Hive, then query them through Impala. For information on using Impala with HBase tables, see Using Impala to Query HBase Tables.

Sorting considerations: Although you can specify an ORDER BY clause in an INSERT ... SELECT statement, any ORDER BY clause is ignored and the results are not necessarily sorted. An INSERT ... SELECT operation potentially creates many different data files, prepared on different data nodes, and therefore the notion of the data being stored in sorted order is impractical.

HDFS considerations:

The CREATE TABLE statement for an internal table creates a directory in HDFS. The CREATE EXTERNAL TABLE statement associates the table with an existing HDFS directory, and does not create any new directory in HDFS. To locate the HDFS data directory for a table, issue a DESCRIBE FORMATTED table statement. To examine the contents of that HDFS directory, use an OS command such as hdfs dfs -ls hdfs://path, either from the OS command line or through the shell or ! commands in impala-shell.

The CREATE TABLE AS SELECT syntax creates data files under the table data directory to hold any data copied by the INSERT portion of the statement. (Even if no data is copied, Impala might create one or more empty data files.)

HDFS permissions:

The user ID that the impalad daemon runs under, typically the impala user, must have both execute and write permission for the database directory where the table is being created.

Cancellation: Certain multi-stage statements (CREATE TABLE AS SELECT and COMPUTE STATS) can be cancelled during some stages, when running INSERT or SELECT operations internally. To cancel this statement, use Ctrl-C from the impala-shell interpreter, the Cancel button from the Watch page in Hue, Actions > Cancel from the Queries list in Cloudera Manager, or Cancel from the list of in-flight queries (for a particular node) on the Queries tab in the Impala web UI (port 25000).

Overview of Impala Tables, ALTER TABLE Statement, DROP TABLE Statement, Partitioning for Impala Tables, Internal Tables, External Tables, COMPUTE STATS Statement, SYNC_DDL Query Option, SHOW TABLES Statement, SHOW CREATE TABLE Statement, DESCRIBE Statement

Page generated August 6, 2016.