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Spanning multi-valued relationships

When you are filtering an object based on a ManyToManyField or a reverse ForeignKey, there are two different sorts of filter you may be interested in. Consider the Blog/Entry relationship (Blog to Entry is a one-to-many relation). We might be interested in finding blogs that have an entry which has both “Lennon” in the headline and was published in 2008. Or we might want to find blogs that have an entry with “Lennon” in the headline as well as an entry that was published in 2008. Since there are multiple entries associated with a single Blog, both of these queries are possible and make sense in some situations.

The same type of situation arises with a ManyToManyField. For example, if an Entry has a ManyToManyField called tags, we might want to find entries linked to tags called “music” and “bands” or we might want an entry that contains a tag with a name of “music” and a status of “public”.

To handle both of these situations, Django has a consistent way of processing filter() calls. Everything inside a single filter() call is applied simultaneously to filter out items matching all those requirements. Successive filter() calls further restrict the set of objects, but for multi-valued relations, they apply to any object linked to the primary model, not necessarily those objects that were selected by an earlier filter() call.

That may sound a bit confusing, so hopefully an example will clarify. To select all blogs that contain entries with both “Lennon” in the headline and that were published in 2008 (the same entry satisfying both conditions), we would write:

Blog.objects.filter(entry__headline__contains='Lennon', entry__pub_date__year=2008)

To select all blogs that contain an entry with “Lennon” in the headline as well as an entry that was published in 2008, we would write:

Blog.objects.filter(entry__headline__contains='Lennon').filter(entry__pub_date__year=2008)

Suppose there is only one blog that had both entries containing “Lennon” and entries from 2008, but that none of the entries from 2008 contained “Lennon”. The first query would not return any blogs, but the second query would return that one blog.

In the second example, the first filter restricts the queryset to all those blogs linked to entries with “Lennon” in the headline. The second filter restricts the set of blogs further to those that are also linked to entries that were published in 2008. The entries selected by the second filter may or may not be the same as the entries in the first filter. We are filtering the Blogitems with each filter statement, not the Entry items.