Entity Relationships:

You can have three types of relations in EDM as in database. 1) One to One 2) One to Many 3) Many to Many.


Let’s examine database table design before going into relationships in EDM. Following figure is a database diagram of SchoolDB used in this tutorial.


entity relationships in entity framework


As you can see in the figure, student and StudentAddress have One-to-One relationshionship where each student has zero or one address.


Standard and Teacher has One-to-Many relationship where one standard can have many teachers but one teacher can’t go to many standard (Standard is a classroom).


Student and Course has Many-to-Many relationships by using StudentCourse table. StudentCourse consists primary key of both the tables and thus it makes relation Many-to-Many.


When you create ADO.NET Entity Data Model from this database using ‘Generate from existing database’ option, it will create following entities and relationships into EDM:


entity relationships in entity framework


As you can see in the above figure, Student and StudentAddress has One to One relationship (zero or one). StudentAddress entity has StudentId property as PK which makes it One-to-One relationship. Standard and teach has One-to-Many relation marked by multiplicity where 1 is for One and * is for Many.


Standard entity has navigation property “Teachers” which indicates that one Standard can have list of teachers and Teacher entity has “Standard” navigation property which indicates that Teacher is associated with one Standard. This makes it One-to-Many relationship.


Student and Course have Many-to-Many relationships marked by * multiplicity, but it doesn’t display entityset for middle table “StudentCourse” where primary key of both tables will be stored. This is because The EDM represents many-to-many relationships by not having entityset for the joining table in CSDL, instead it manages through mapping. It can do this only when the join table has just the relevant keys and no additional fields. If the join tables had additional properties, such as DateCreated, the EDM would have created entities for them and you have to manage Many-to-Many relationship entities manually.


So now let’s see how Many-to-Many relationship is being managed in EDM.


Open EDM in XML view. You can see that SSDL has StudentCourse entityset but CSDL doesn’t have StudentCourse entityset instead it’s being mapped in navigation property of Student and Course entity. In MSL (C-S Mapping), it has a mapping between Student and Course into StudentCourse table in <AssociationSetMapping/>


entity relationships in entity framework


Thus Many-to-Many relationship is being managed in C-S mapping in EDM. So when you add student in course or Course in Student entity and when you save it then it will insert PK of added student and course in StudentCourse table. So this mapping not only enables a convenient association directly between the two entities, but also manages querying, inserts, and updates across this join.


But remember EDM does this only when joining table has PK columns for both tables. If you have some other columns in joining table then EDM will treat as normal entity and you have to use ‘Join’ in your query to fetch the data.


Entity Graph:

When an entity has relation with other entities then it called entity graph because more entities are involved, for example Student entity graph includes many other entities like Standard, StudentAddress & Course.


Entity Framework