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Difference between Primary key and Super key
  • Difficulty Level : Easy
  • Last Updated : 16 Apr, 2020

Prerequisite – Keys in Relational Model
1. Super Key:
Super Key is an attribute (or set of attributes) that is used to uniquely identifies all attributes in a relation. All super keys can’t be candidate keys but its reverse is true. In a relation, number of super keys are more than number of candidate keys.

Example:
We have a given relation R(A, B, C, D, E, F) and we shall check for being super keys by following given dependencies:

Functional dependencies         Super key
AB->CDEF                         YES
CD->ABEF                         YES
CB->DF                           NO
D->BC                            NO 

By Using key AB we can identify rest of the attributes (CDEF) of the table. Similarly Key CD. But, by using key CB we can only identifies D and F not A and E. Similarly key D.

2. Primary Key:
Candidate key is a set of attributes (or attribute) which uniquely identify the tuples in a relation or table. There can be more than one candidate key in relation out of which one can be chosen as the primary key.

Example:

Student{Stud_No, Stud_name, Stud_phone, 
             Stud_state, Stud_country, Stud_age} 

Here we can see the two candidate keys Stud_No and Stud_phone. STUD_No can be chosen as the primary key (only one out of many candidate keys).

Difference between Super Key and Primary Key:

S.NOSuper KeyPrimary Key
1.Super Key is an attribute (or set of attributes) that is used to uniquely identifies all attributes in a relation.Primary Key is a minimal set of attribute (or set of attributes) that is used to uniquely identifies all attributes in a relation.
2.All super keys can’t be primary keys.Primary key is a minimal super key.
3.Various super keys together makes the criteria to select the candidate keys.We can choose any of the minimal candidate key to be a primary key.
4.In a relation, number of super keys are more than number of primary keys.While in a relation, number of primary keys are less than number of super keys.
5.Super key’s attributes can contain NULL values.Primary key’s attributes cannot contain NULL values.
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