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Types of Functional dependencies in DBMS

Last Updated : 12 Jun, 2023
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Prerequisite: Functional dependency and attribute closure

In a relational database management, functional dependency is a concept that specifies the relationship between two sets of attributes where one attribute determines the value of another attribute. It is denoted as X → Y, where the attribute set on the left side of the arrow, X is called Determinant, and Y is called the Dependent

Functional dependencies are used to mathematically express relations among database entities and are very important to understand advanced concepts in Relational Database System and understanding problems in competitive exams like Gate.


roll_no name dept_name dept_building
42 abc CO A4
43 pqr IT A3
44 xyz CO A4
45  xyz IT A3
46 mno EC B2
47 jkl ME B2

From the above table we can conclude some valid functional dependencies:

  • roll_no → { name, dept_name, dept_building },→  Here, roll_no can determine values of fields name, dept_name and dept_building, hence a valid Functional dependency
  • roll_no → dept_name , Since, roll_no can determine whole set of {name, dept_name, dept_building}, it can determine its subset dept_name also.
  • dept_name → dept_building ,  Dept_name can identify the dept_building accurately, since departments with different dept_name will also have a different dept_building
  • More valid functional dependencies: roll_no → name, {roll_no, name} ⇢ {dept_name, dept_building}, etc.

Here are some invalid functional dependencies:

  • name → dept_name   Students with the same name can have different dept_name, hence this is not a valid functional dependency.
  • dept_building → dept_name    There can be multiple departments in the same building. Example, in the above table departments ME and EC are in the same building B2, hence dept_building → dept_name is an invalid functional dependency.
  • More invalid functional dependencies: name → roll_no, {name, dept_name} → roll_no, dept_building → roll_no, etc.

Armstrong’s axioms/properties of functional dependencies:

  1. Reflexivity: If Y is a subset of X, then X→Y holds by reflexivity rule
    Example, {roll_no, name} → name is valid.
  2. Augmentation: If X → Y is a valid dependency, then XZ → YZ is also valid by the augmentation rule.
    Example, {roll_no, name} → dept_building is valid, hence {roll_no, name, dept_name} → {dept_building, dept_name} is also valid.
  3. Transitivity: If X → Y and Y → Z are both valid dependencies, then X→Z is also valid by the Transitivity rule.
    Example, roll_no → dept_name & dept_name → dept_building, then roll_no → dept_building is also valid.

Types of Functional Dependencies in DBMS

  1. Trivial functional dependency
  2. Non-Trivial functional dependency
  3. Multivalued functional dependency
  4. Transitive functional dependency

1. Trivial Functional Dependency

In Trivial Functional Dependency, a dependent is always a subset of the determinant. i.e. If X → Y and Y is the subset of X, then it is called trivial functional dependency


roll_no name age
42 abc 17
43 pqr 18
44 xyz 18

Here, {roll_no, name} → name is a trivial functional dependency, since the dependent name is a subset of determinant set {roll_no, name}. Similarly, roll_no → roll_no is also an example of trivial functional dependency. 

2. Non-trivial Functional Dependency

In Non-trivial functional dependency, the dependent is strictly not a subset of the determinant. i.e. If X → Y and Y is not a subset of X, then it is called Non-trivial functional dependency.


roll_no name age
42 abc 17
43 pqr 18
44 xyz 18

Here, roll_no → name is a non-trivial functional dependency, since the dependent name is not a subset of determinant roll_no. Similarly, {roll_no, name} → age is also a non-trivial functional dependency, since age is not a subset of {roll_no, name} 

3. Multivalued Functional Dependency

In Multivalued functional dependency, entities of the dependent set are not dependent on each other. i.e. If a → {b, c} and there exists no functional dependency between b and c, then it is called a multivalued functional dependency.

For example,

roll_no name age 
42 abc 17 
43 pqr 18
44 xyz 18
45 abc 19

Here, roll_no → {name, age} is a multivalued functional dependency, since the dependents name & age are not dependent on each other(i.e. name → age or age → name doesn’t exist !)

4. Transitive Functional Dependency

In transitive functional dependency, dependent is indirectly dependent on determinant. i.e. If a → b & b → c, then according to axiom of transitivity, a → c. This is a transitive functional dependency.

For example,

enrol_no name dept building_no
42 abc CO 4
43 pqr EC 2
44 xyz IT 1
45 abc EC 2

Here, enrol_no → dept and dept → building_no. Hence, according to the axiom of transitivity, enrol_no → building_no is a valid functional dependency. This is an indirect functional dependency, hence called Transitive functional dependency.

5. Fully Functional Dependency

In full functional dependency an attribute or a set of attributes uniquely determines another attribute or set of attributes. If a relation R has attributes X, Y, Z with the dependencies X->Y and X->Z which states that those dependencies are fully functional.

6. Partial Functional Dependency

In partial functional dependency a non key attribute depends on a part of the composite key, rather than the whole key. If a relation R has attributes X, Y, Z where X and Y are the composite key and Z is non key attribute. Then X->Z is a partial functional dependency in RBDMS.

Advantages of Functional Dependencies

Functional dependencies having numerous applications in the field of database management system. Here are some applications listed below:

1. Data Normalization

Data normalization is the process of organizing data in a database in order to minimize redundancy and increase data integrity. Functional dependencies play an important part in data normalization. With the help of functional dependencies we are able to identify the primary key, candidate key in a table which in turns helps in normalization.

2. Query Optimization

With the help of functional dependencies we are able to decide the connectivity between the tables and the necessary attributes need to be projected to retrieve the required data from the tables. This helps in query optimization and improves performance.

3. Consistency of Data

Functional dependencies ensures the consistency of the data by  removing any redundancies or inconsistencies that may exist in the data. Functional dependency ensures that the changes made in one attribute does not affect inconsistency in another set of attributes thus it maintains the consistency of the data in database.

4. Data Quality Improvement

Functional dependencies ensure that the data in the database to be accurate, complete and updated. This helps to improve the overall quality of the data, as well as it eliminates errors and inaccuracies that might occur during data analysis and decision making, thus functional dependency helps in improving the quality of data in database.


Functional dependency is very important concept in database management system for ensuring the data consistency and accuracy. In this article we have discuss what is the concept behind functional dependencies and why they are important. The valid and invalid functional dependencies and the types of most important functional dependencies in RDBMS. We have also discussed about the advantages of FDs. 

For more details you can refer Database Normalization and Difference between Fully and Partial Functional Dependency articles. 

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