How to control nullability in SELECT INTO for literal-based columns

I am noticing that when I use this statement, the Action column is not nullable:

SELECT TOP 0 SerialNumber, 0 [Action] INTO #MyTable FROM FSE_SerialNumber

But when I use this statement, the Action column is nullable:

SELECT TOP 0 SerialNumber, CAST(0 as int) [Action] INTO #MyTable FROM FSE_SerialNumber

My reason for creating the table this way is because I don't want the temp table to inherit the collation of SerialNumber from the server default collation or elsewhere. I want it to match the collation of FSE_SerialNumber..SerialNumber.

My question is, can I rely on the cast function giving me a nullable column, or is this not clearly defined and might change. Why does the cast suddenly make the column nullable? Is there a better way (besides comments) to clarify that my intent is to get a nullable column there?


  • It looks like a definitive answer is here. Copying here:

    Metadata is determined based on the source column and expressions used in the SELECT list. Below are the rules:

    1. Any expression that uses a built-in function like SUBSTRING, LEFT, RIGHT etc (except ISNULL) for example is considered as NULLable by the engine. So if you use CAST(somecol as char(8)) then the expression is NULLable

    2. Literals, constants, global variables like @@DBTS, @@ERROR etc are considered non-NULLable since they return some value always

    3. If expression is a column then nullability is derived from the source column metadata

      So to make an expression or column in the SELECT list not null then use ISNULL around the column or expression.

    So, it looks like you are safe to use your CAST expression.