Skip to main content

Find Queries

Find queries are Joist's ergonomic API for issuing SELECT queries to load entities from your database. They look like this:

// Find all BookReviews for a given Publisher
const reviews1 = await em.find(BookReview, {
book: { author: { publisher: "p:1" } },

// Find all BookReviews of Books with foo in the title
const reviews2 = await em.find(BookReview, {
book: { title: { like: "%foo%" } },

You can watch this overview of em.find on our YouTube channel:


As mentioned on Loading Entities, Joist's find methods are meant to handle the ~80-90% of SQL queries in your codebase that are simple SELECTs of entities with a variety of joins and conditions.

If you need more complex queries, i.e. with aggregates or subqueries, you can still use a raw query builder like Knex.


Find queries are made up of three parts:

  1. A join literal that describes the tables to query/filter against,
  2. Inline conditions within the join literal itself, and
  3. Optional complex conditions that are passed as a separate argument

For example, to query all BookReviews for a given Publisher, by joining through the Book and Author tables, we start at BookReviews and then use nested object literals to join in the Book and Author:

const reviews = await em.find(
// this is the join literal
{ book: { author: { publisher: p1 } } },

This turns into the SQL:

SELECT br.* FROM book_reviews br
JOIN books b ON br.book_id =
JOIN authors a ON b.author_id =
WHERE a.publisher_id = 1

Basically the join literal creates the JOIN <table> ON <foreign key> clauses of the SQL statement.

The join literal is the biggest brevity win of find queries, because just adding { book: { author: ... } } is much quicker than typing out the boilerplate ON br.book_id = for each join in a query.

Inline Conditions

Inline conditions are WHERE conditions that appear directly in the join literal, i.e.:

// Conditions directly in the top-level `books` join literal
await em.find(Book, { title: "b1" });
await em.find(Book, { title: { ne: "b1" } });
await em.find(Book, { publishedAt: { gte: jan1 } });
// Or conditions within any nested join literal like `author`
await em.find(Book, { author: { firstName: { in: ["a1", "a2"] } } });

As expected turn into the SQL WHERE clauses:

SELECT * FROM books WHERE title = 'b1';
SELECT * FROM books WHERE title != 'b1';
SELECT * FROM books WHERE published_at >= '2018-01-01';
SELECT * FROM books b
INNER JOIN authors ON b.author_id =
WHERE a.first_name IN ('a1', 'a2');

Because these conditions are inline with the rest of the join literal, they are always AND-d together with any other inline condition, for example:

await em.find(Book, { title: "b1", author: a1 });

Finds books with the title is b1 and the author is a:1:

SELECT * FROM books WHERE title = 'b1' AND author_id = 1;

Inline conditions can be any of the following formats/operators:

  • Just the value itself, i.e. { firstName: "a1" }
    • { firstName: ["a1", "a2"] } becomes first_name IN ("a1", "a2")
  • Just the entity itself, i.e. { publisher: p1 }
    • { publisher: [p1, p2] } becomes publisher_id IN (1, 2)
    • { publisher: true } becomes publisher_id IS NOT NULL
    • { publisher: false } becomes publisher_id IS NULL
    • { publisher: undefined } is ignored
  • A variety of operator literals, i.e.
    • { eq: "a1" }
    • { ne: "a1" }
    • { eq: null } becomes IS NULL
    • { ne: null } becomes IS NOT NULL
    • { in: ["a1", "b2", null] }
    • { nin: ["a1", "b2"] } becomes NOT IN
    • { lt: 1 }
    • { gt: 1 }
    • { gte: 1 }
    • { lte: 1 }
    • { like: "str" }
    • { ilike: "str" }
  • An operator literal can also include multiple keys, i.e.:
    • { gt: 1, lt: 10 } becomes > 1 AND < 10
  • An operator literal can also use an explicit op key, i.e.:
    • { op: "eq", value: "a1" }
    • { op: "in", value: ["a1", "a2"] }
  • An array field can also use these additional operators, i.e.:
    • { contains: ["book"] }
    • { overlaps: ["book"] }
    • { containedBy: ["book"] }

The op format is useful for frontend UIs where the operator is bound to a drop-down, i.e. select >= or <= or =, as then the select field can be down to the single op key, instead of adding/removing the gt/lt/eq keys based on the currently-selected operator.

Complex Conditions

While inline conditions are very succinct, they only support ANDs.

Complex conditions allow complex conditions, i.e. AND and ORs that can be nested arbitrarily deep.

To support this, complex conditions introduce the concept of "aliases", which allow conditions to be created outside of join literal, in a 3rd conditions argument that can be organized orthogonally to how the tables are joined into the query.

For example, to do an OR:

const b = alias(Book);
await em.find(Book, { as: b }, { conditions: { or: [b.title.eq("b1"),] } });

So we still have the join literal, but the as keyword binds the b alias to the books table, and then we can create an OR expressions after.

Splitting the aliases out allows OR expressions that touch separate tables, by using an alias for each table:

const [b, a] = aliases(Book, Author);
await em.find(Book, { as: b, author: a }, { conditions: { or: [b.title.eq("b1"), a.firstName.eq("a1")] } });

The aliases use method calls to create conditions (i.e. .eq(1)), which is a different syntax than the inline condition's { eq: 1 } literals, but the supported operations are still the same:

  • eq("b1")
  • ne("b1")
  • lt(1)
  • gt(1)
  • lte(1)
  • gte(1)
  • gte(1)

Condition & Join Pruning

Find queries have special treatment of undefined, to facilitate constructing complex queries:

  • any condition that has undefined as a value will be dropped, and
  • any join that has no conditions actively using the joined table will also be dropped

This allows building queries from filters like:

// Either firstName or publisherId may be defined
const { firstName, publisherId } = req.filter;
const rows = await em.find(Book, { firstName, author: { publisher: publisherId } });

Where if the req.filter does not have publisherId set (because it was not submitted for this query), then:

  • There will not be WHERE clause for author.publisher_id
  • There will not be a join from books to authors

The win here is that, without the pruning feature, the filter construction code would have to manually join in the authors table only if publisherId was defined, to avoid making the query more expensive than it needs to be.


This means if you want to filter on "is null", you need to use an explicit firstName: null or firstName: { eq: null } instead of assuming that undefined will be treated as null.

This approach is admittedly contrary to null vs. undefined behavior in the rest of Joist, where undefined is converted to NULL i.e. when saving column values to the database.

Incrementally Building Queries

Joist's filters, specifically the FilterWithAlias type, can be used to incrementally create/combine queries, in a fashion similar to Rails relations. For example something like:

const where: FilterWithAlias<Book> = {};
if (authorCondition) { = authorCondition;
if (titleCondition) {
where.title = titleCondition;
return await em.find(Book, where);

Often it is more ergonomic to use spreading:

await em.find(Book, {
author: {
...(condition ? { achived: false } : {}),
status: authorStatus,

Although, even then Joist's "condition pruning" feature (mentioned above), is usually the most ergonomic:

await em.find(Book, {
author: {
achived: condition ? false : undefined,
status: authorStatus,

Nonetheless, the type of FilterWithAlias allows you to incrementally create/pass arond snippets of filters for better reuse.

Polymorphic Relations



Query an entity and given where clause

const em = newEntityManager();
const authors = await em.find(Author, { email: "" });

You can also query based on an association

const books = await em.find(Book, { author: { firstName: "a2" } });
  • Batch friendly
  • Returns
    • Array of zero or more entities


const em = newEntityManager();
const author = await em.findOne(Author, { email: '" });
  • Batch friendly
  • Returns
    • Entity if one found
    • undefined if nothing found
    • throws TooManyError if more than 1 found


const em = newEntityManager();
const author = await em.findOneOrFail(Author, { email: "" });
  • Batch friendly
  • Returns
    • Entity if one found
    • throws NotFoundError if nothing found
    • throws TooManyError if more than 1 found


const em = newEntityManager();
const author = await em.findOrCreate(Author, { email: "" });


The normal em.find method creates a SQL SELECT statement that is issued against the database.

This is great, but it will miss any work-in-progress changes you've made to entities in the current EntityManager instance, i.e. if you've created new entities, or have mutated entities, that would technically match the where parameter, but have not been em.flushed to the database yet.

This findWithNewOrChanged provides this capability, to find against both unloaded rows from the database, as well as any WIP changes to entities in the current EntityManager instance.

Because we evaluate this "where clause" in memory, the where parameter is limited to a flat set of fields immediately on the entity, i.e. primitives, enums, and many-to-ones, without any nested, cross-table joins/conditions.

const em = newEntityManager();
const author = await em.findWithNewOrChanged(Author, { email: "" });