Conversion rules

"Conversion" includes, but is not limited to, casting and coercion.

  • Casting is explicit conversion and uses the CAST() function.
  • Coercion is implicit conversion, which Cloud Spanner SQL performs automatically under the conditions described below.
  • There is a third group of conversion functions that have their own function names, such as UNIX_DATE().

The table below summarizes all possible CAST and coercion possibilities for Cloud Spanner SQL data types. "Coercion To" applies to all expressions of a given data type (e.g. a column) .

From Type CAST to Coercion To



CAST(expr AS typename)

Cast syntax is used in a query to indicate that the result type of an expression should be converted to some other type.



This results in "true" if x is 1, "false" for any other non-NULL value, and NULL if x is NULL.

Casts between supported types that do not successfully map from the original value to the target domain produce runtime errors. For example, casting BYTES to STRING where the byte sequence is not valid UTF-8 results in a runtime error.

When casting an expression x of the following types, these rules apply:

From To Rule(s) when casting x
INT64 FLOAT64 Returns a close but potentially not exact FLOAT64 value.
INT64 BOOL Returns FALSE if x is 0, TRUE otherwise.
FLOAT64 INT64 Returns the closest INT64 value.
Halfway cases such as 1.5 or -0.5 round away from zero.
FLOAT64 STRING Returns an approximate string representation.
BOOL INT64 Returns 1 if x is TRUE, 0 otherwise.
BOOL STRING Returns "true" if x is TRUE, "false" otherwise.
STRING FLOAT64 Returns x as a FLOAT64 value, interpreting it as having the same form as a valid FLOAT64 literal.
Also supports casts from "inf", "+inf", "-inf", and "nan".
Conversions are case-insensitive.
STRING BOOL Returns TRUE if x is "true" and FALSE if x is "false"
All other values of x are invalid and throw an error instead of casting to BOOL.
STRINGs are case-insensitive when converting to BOOL.
STRING BYTES STRINGs are cast to BYTES using UTF-8 encoding. For example, the STRING "©", when cast to BYTES, would become a 2-byte sequence with the hex values C2 and A9.
BYTES STRING Returns x interpreted as a UTF-8 STRING.
For example, the BYTES literal b'\xc2\xa9', when cast to STRING, is interpreted as UTF-8 and becomes the unicode character "©".
An error occurs if x is not valid UTF-8.
ARRAY ARRAY Must be the exact same ARRAY type.
STRUCT STRUCT Allowed if the following conditions are met:
  1. The two STRUCTs have the same number of fields.
  2. The original STRUCT field types can be explicitly cast to the corresponding target STRUCT field types (as defined by field order, not field name).

Safe casting

When using CAST, a query can fail if Cloud Spanner SQL is unable to perform the cast. For example, the following query generates an error:

SELECT CAST("apple" AS INT64) AS not_a_number;

If you want to protect your queries from these types of errors, you can use SAFE_CAST. SAFE_CAST is identical to CAST, except it returns NULL instead of raising an error.

SELECT SAFE_CAST("apple" AS INT64) AS not_a_number;

| not_a_number |
| NULL         |

If you are casting from bytes to strings, you can also use the function, SAFE_CONVERT_BYTES_TO_STRING. Any invalid UTF-8 characters are replaced with the unicode replacement character, U+FFFD. See SAFE_CONVERT_BYTES_TO_STRING for more information.

Casting hex strings to integers

If you are working with hex strings (0x123), you can cast those strings as integers:

SELECT '0x123' as hex_value, CAST('0x123' as INT64) as hex_to_int;

| hex_value | hex_to_int |
| 0x123     | 291        |

SELECT '-0x123' as hex_value, CAST('-0x123' as INT64) as hex_to_int;

| hex_value | hex_to_int |
| -0x123    | -291       |

Casting date types

Cloud Spanner SQL supports casting date types to/from strings as follows:

CAST(date_expression AS STRING)
CAST(string_expression AS DATE)

Casting from a date type to a string is independent of time zone and is of the form YYYY-MM-DD. When casting from string to date, the string must conform to the supported date literal format, and is independent of time zone. If the string expression is invalid or represents a date that is outside of the supported min/max range, then an error is produced.

Casting timestamp types

Cloud Spanner SQL supports casting timestamp types to/from strings as follows:

CAST(timestamp_expression AS STRING)
CAST(string_expression AS TIMESTAMP)

When casting from timestamp types to string, the timestamp is interpreted using the default time zone, America/Los_Angeles. The number of subsecond digits produced depends on the number of trailing zeroes in the subsecond part: the CAST function will truncate zero, three, or six digits.

When casting from string to a timestamp, string_expression must conform to the supported timestamp literal formats, or else a runtime error occurs. The string_expression may itself contain a time_zone—see time zones. If there is a time zone in the string_expression, that time zone is used for conversion, otherwise the default time zone, America/Los_Angeles, is used. If the string has fewer than six digits, then it is implicitly widened.

An error is produced if the string_expression is invalid, has more than six subsecond digits (i.e. precision greater than microseconds), or represents a time outside of the supported timestamp range.

Casting between date and timestamp types

Cloud Spanner SQL supports casting between date and timestamp types as follows:

CAST(date_expression AS TIMESTAMP)
CAST(timestamp_expression AS DATE)

Casting from a date to a timestamp interprets date_expression as of midnight (start of the day) in the default time zone, America/Los_Angeles. Casting from a timestamp to date effectively truncates the timestamp as of the default time zone.


Cloud Spanner SQL coerces the result type of an expression to another type if needed to match function signatures. For example, if function func() is defined to take a single argument of type INT64 and an expression is used as an argument that has a result type of FLOAT64, then the result of the expression will be coerced to INT64 type before func() is computed.

Additional conversion functions

Cloud Spanner SQL provides the following additional conversion functions: