[SOLVED] Scalable Contains method for LINQ against a SQL backend


I’m looking for an elegant way to execute a Contains() statement in a scalable way. Please allow me to give some background before I come to the actual question.

The IN statement

In Entity Framework and LINQ to SQL the Contains statement is translated as a SQL IN statement. For instance, from this statement:

var ids = Enumerable.Range(1,10);
var courses = Courses.Where(c => ids.Contains(c.CourseID)).ToList();

Entity Framework will generate

    [Extent1].[CourseID] AS [CourseID], 
    [Extent1].[Title] AS [Title], 
    [Extent1].[Credits] AS [Credits], 
    [Extent1].[DepartmentID] AS [DepartmentID]
    FROM [dbo].[Course] AS [Extent1]
    WHERE [Extent1].[CourseID] IN (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

Unfortunately, the In statement is not scalable. As per MSDN:

Including an extremely large number of values (many thousands) in an IN clause can consume resources and return errors 8623 or 8632

which has to do with running out of resources or exceeding expression limits.

But before these errors occur, the IN statement becomes increasingly slow with growing numbers of items. I can’t find documentation about its growth rate, but it performs well up to a few thousands of items, but beyond that it gets dramatically slow. (Based on SQL Server experiences).


We can’t always avoid this statement. A JOIN with the source data in stead would generally perform much better, but that’s only possible when the source data is in the same context. Here I’m dealing with data coming from a client in a disconnected scenario. So I have been looking for a scalable solution. A satisfactory approach turned out to be cutting the operation into chunks:

var courses = ids.ToChunks(1000)
                 .Select(chunk => Courses.Where(c => chunk.Contains(c.CourseID)))
                 .SelectMany(x => x).ToList();

(where ToChunks is this little extension method).

This executes the query in chunks of 1000 that all perform well enough. With e.g. 5000 items, 5 queries will run that together are likely to be faster than one query with 5000 items.

But not DRY

But of course I don’t want to scatter this construct all over my code. I am looking for an extension method by which any IQueryable<T> can be transformed into a chunky executing statement. Ideally something like this:

var courses = Courses.Where(c => ids.Contains(c.CourseID))

But maybe this

var courses = Courses.ChunkyContains(c => c.CourseID, ids, 1000)

I’ve given the latter solution a first shot:

public static IEnumerable<TEntity> ChunkyContains<TEntity, TContains>(
    this IQueryable<TEntity> query, 
    Expression<Func<TEntity,TContains>> match, 
    IEnumerable<TContains> containList, 
    int chunkSize = 500)
    return containList.ToChunks(chunkSize)
               .Select (chunk => query.Where(x => chunk.Contains(match)))
               .SelectMany(x => x);

Obviously, the part x => chunk.Contains(match) doesn’t compile. But I don’t know how to manipulate the match expression into a Contains expression.

Maybe someone can help me make this solution work. And of course I’m open to other approaches to make this statement scalable.


I’ve solved this problem with a little different approach a view month ago. Maybe it’s a good solution for you too.

I didn’t want my solution to change the query itself. So a ids.ChunkContains(p.Id) or a special WhereContains method was unfeasible. Also should the solution be able to combine a Contains with another filter as well as using the same collection multiple times.

db.TestEntities.Where(p => (ids.Contains(p.Id) || ids.Contains(p.ParentId)) && p.Name.StartsWith("Test"))

So I tried to encapsulate the logic in a special ToList method that could rewrite the Expression for a specified collection to be queried in chunks.

var ids = Enumerable.Range(1, 11);
var result = db.TestEntities.Where(p => Ids.Contains(p.Id) && p.Name.StartsWith ("Test"))

To rewrite the expression tree I discovered all Contains Method calls from local collections in the query with a view helping classes.

private class ContainsExpression
    public ContainsExpression(MethodCallExpression methodCall)
        this.MethodCall = methodCall;

    public MethodCallExpression MethodCall { get; private set; }

    public object GetValue()
        var parent = MethodCall.Object ?? MethodCall.Arguments.FirstOrDefault();
        return Expression.Lambda<Func<object>>(parent).Compile()();

    public bool IsLocalList()
        Expression parent = MethodCall.Object ?? MethodCall.Arguments.FirstOrDefault();
        while (parent != null) {
            if (parent is ConstantExpression)
                return true;
            var member = parent as MemberExpression;
            if (member != null) {
                parent = member.Expression;
            } else {
                parent = null;
        return false;

private class FindExpressionVisitor<T> : ExpressionVisitor where T : Expression
    public List<T> FoundItems { get; private set; }

    public FindExpressionVisitor()
        this.FoundItems = new List<T>();

    public override Expression Visit(Expression node)
        var found = node as T;
        if (found != null) {
        return base.Visit(node);

public static List<T> ToChunkedList<T, TValue>(this IQueryable<T> query, IEnumerable<TValue> list, int chunkSize)
    var finder = new FindExpressionVisitor<MethodCallExpression>();
    var methodCalls = finder.FoundItems.Where(p => p.Method.Name == "Contains").Select(p => new ContainsExpression(p)).Where(p => p.IsLocalList()).ToList();
    var localLists = methodCalls.Where(p => p.GetValue() == list).ToList();

If the local collection passed in the ToChunkedList method was found in the query expression, I replace the Contains call to the original list with a new call to a temporary list containing the ids for one batch.

if (localLists.Any()) {
    var result = new List<T>();
    var valueList = new List<TValue>();

    var containsMethod = typeof(Enumerable).GetMethods(BindingFlags.Static | BindingFlags.Public)
                        .Single(p => p.Name == "Contains" && p.GetParameters().Count() == 2)

    var queryExpression = query.Expression;

    foreach (var item in localLists) {
        var parameter = new List<Expression>();
        if (item.MethodCall.Object == null) {
        } else {

        var call = Expression.Call(containsMethod, parameter.ToArray());

        var replacer = new ExpressionReplacer(item.MethodCall,call);

        queryExpression = replacer.Visit(queryExpression);

    var chunkQuery = query.Provider.CreateQuery<T>(queryExpression);

    for (int i = 0; i < Math.Ceiling((decimal)list.Count() / chunkSize); i++) {
        valueList.AddRange(list.Skip(i * chunkSize).Take(chunkSize));

    return result;
// if the collection was not found return query.ToList()
return query.ToList();

Expression Replacer:

private class ExpressionReplacer : ExpressionVisitor {

    private Expression find, replace;

    public ExpressionReplacer(Expression find, Expression replace)
        this.find = find;
        this.replace = replace;

    public override Expression Visit(Expression node)
        if (node == this.find)
            return this.replace;

        return base.Visit(node);

Answered By – codeworx

Answer Checked By – Mildred Charles (BugsFixing Admin)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *