Resolving 'Permission denied for relation' Errors in PostgreSQL


Understanding the Error:

  • Databases: In the context of PostgreSQL, a database is a collection of tables, schemas, functions, and other objects that store and organize related data. You can think of it as a container for all your information.
  • PostgreSQL: This is a powerful open-source relational database management system (RDBMS) used for storing, managing, and retrieving data.
  • Privileges (Permissions): These are access controls that determine what a user (or role) can or cannot do with database objects like tables. They specify actions such as selecting, inserting, updating, or deleting data.

The Error Message:

When you encounter the "Permission denied for relation" error in PostgreSQL, it signifies that the user you're currently logged in as (or the role you're using) doesn't have the necessary privileges to perform the requested action on a specific table (the "relation" in the message).

Common Causes:

  1. Insufficient Privileges: The most likely reason is that you lack the required permissions on the table you're trying to access. For instance, you might not have permission to select data from the table (SELECT privilege), even though you might be able to see the table in the database.

  2. Incorrect User: You might be logged in as a user who doesn't have any permissions on the table at all. The table owner or a user with administrative privileges (like "postgres" by default) would typically have full access.

  3. Schema Issues: If the table resides in a specific schema (a logical grouping within a database), you might need privileges on both the schema and the table itself.

Resolving the Error:

  1. Verify User and Privileges:

    • Check which user you're currently logged in as with the \whoami command in psql (the PostgreSQL command-line tool).
    • Use the \dp command to view the table's owner and your current privileges.
  2. Grant Privileges:

    • If you need access, the table owner or a user with administrative privileges can grant you the appropriate permissions using the GRANT command. For example, to grant SELECT privilege:
    GRANT SELECT ON table_name TO your_username;

    You can grant more comprehensive permissions like UPDATE, DELETE, or ALL PRIVILEGES as needed.

Additional Considerations:

  • Default Privileges: You can set default privileges for new tables using the ALTER DEFAULT PRIVILEGES command, specifying who can access them by default.
  • Roles: In PostgreSQL, roles (like groups) can be used to manage user permissions more efficiently. You can grant privileges to roles and then assign users to those roles.

Checking Current User and Privileges:

# Check currently logged-in user

# View table details and privileges (replace "your_table" with the actual table name)
\dp your_table;

This will output information about the table owner and the permissions granted to your current user (or role).

Granting SELECT Permission:

Assuming the table owner is "table_owner" and you want to grant SELECT privilege to the user "new_user":

# Grant SELECT privilege to "new_user" on "your_table"
GRANT SELECT ON your_table TO new_user;

This allows "new_user" to retrieve data from "your_table" using SELECT statements.

Granting All Privileges:

If "new_user" needs full access (select, insert, update, delete), you can grant all privileges:

GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON your_table TO new_user;

Setting Default Privileges:

To ensure new tables in the current schema are accessible by "new_user" with SELECT privileges by default:


Using Roles:

Create a role named "data_readers" and grant SELECT privilege on "your_table":

CREATE ROLE data_readers;
GRANT SELECT ON your_table TO data_readers;

Then, add "new_user" to the "data_readers" role:

GRANT data_readers TO new_user;

Remember to replace "your_table", "new_user", "table_owner", and "data_readers" with your actual names.

Important Notes:

  • These examples assume you have the necessary permissions to grant privileges (e.g., being the table owner or having administrative privileges).
  • Be cautious when granting privileges, as it can impact data security. Grant only the minimum access level required for users to perform their tasks.

Role Membership:

  • Create roles (like groups) to categorize users with similar permission requirements.
  • Grant privileges to roles instead of individual users.
  • Assign users to roles to manage access efficiently.


CREATE ROLE data_readers;
GRANT SELECT ON your_table TO data_readers;

CREATE ROLE data_editors;
GRANT SELECT, UPDATE, DELETE ON your_table TO data_editors;

GRANT data_readers TO new_user1, new_user2;
GRANT data_editors TO new_user3;

This approach simplifies permission management, especially when dealing with many users.

Ownership Transfer:

  • In rare cases, if a user absolutely needs full control over a table, you can transfer ownership using ALTER TABLE:
ALTER TABLE your_table OWNER TO new_user;


  • Use ownership transfer with extreme care as it grants complete control over the table.
  • This approach is generally discouraged for security reasons.

Public Schema:

  • By default, objects in the public schema are accessible to all roles (unless explicitly revoked).
  • Place tables intended for broad access in the public schema.
  • This provides very loose control over access.
  • Only use this approach for tables that genuinely require access by all roles.

Temporary Access:

  • If a user needs temporary access for a specific task, consider using functions or views:

    • Create functions or views with the required permissions.
    • Grant access to these functions/views instead of the underlying table.
CREATE FUNCTION get_user_data(user_id INT) RETURNS TABLE (...) AS $$
SELECT * FROM your_table WHERE user_id = $1;

GRANT EXECUTE ON FUNCTION get_user_data(INT) TO new_user;

This allows "new_user" to retrieve data relevant to their task without direct access to the table.

database postgresql privileges

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