How does = differ from =: ?

My code snippet below only works when using =:, however when looking through the SOQL documentation, I mostly see examples using =.

public class AccountUtils {

    public static List<Account> accountsByState(String abbr) {
        list<Account> result = [SELECT ID, Name FROM Account WHERE BillingState =: abbr];
        return result; 

Versus an example from the documentation that uses =:

WHERE Contact.LastName = null

2 Answers 2


The : denotes a variable, in your case for abbr in your SOQL e.g.

SELECT ID, Name FROM Account WHERE BillingState = :abbr

as opposed to null which is a literal value

SELECT Id FROM Case WHERE Contact.LastName = null

in short if you are using a variable in SOQL then use : before the variable name.

  • 5
    Put in a slightly different way, there is no =: operator in SOQL, the equality "=" and bind ":" operators are two separate things.
    – Derek F
    Aug 25, 2020 at 0:03
  • 4
    : denotes a variable or expression. This bit is important. You can do, for example, :System.today().addDays(5) if you wanted to, or even :Math.getRandomLong(). Dynamic queries only support variables, but inline queries support both variables and expressions.
    – sfdcfox
    Aug 25, 2020 at 2:46
  • This makes sense, and thank you for the clarification on the bind operator! Aug 26, 2020 at 3:22
  • Because they are two different operators, it should be preferred that there is a space between the two, and that the bind operator touch the expression it is bound too: WHERE Id IN :someSet. This helps eliminate ambiguity in what the two operators are doing and makes it clear that, unlike the addition assignment operator += or the less than or equal to operator <=, putting the two of them together does not make them work any differently.
    – nbrown
    Sep 23, 2020 at 13:08

SOQL and SOSL statements in Apex can reference Apex code variables and expressions if they’re preceded by a colon (:). This use of a local code variable within a SOQL or SOSL statement is called a bind. The Apex parser first evaluates the local variable in code context before executing the SOQL or SOSL statement. Bind expressions can be used as:


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