coalesce is the "standard" SQL function. ifnull is an implementation-ism from MySQL (I believe). coalesce takes any number of arguments and evaluates to the first one from left to right which is not null. ifnull does exactly the same thing but only permits two arguments. What do you mean by "skip everything" and "get stuck". Do you mean like a car getting stuck in the mud (or snow) and not going anywhere anymore?