EF 4.1 loading filtered child collections not working for many-to-many

I could reproduce exactly the behaviour you describe. What I got working is this:

       .Collection(s => s.Courses)
       .Include(c => c.Students)
       .Where(c => c.Id == 1)

I don’t know why we should be forced also to load the other side of the many-to-many relationship (Include(...)) when we only want to load one collection. For me it feels indeed like a bug unless I missed some hidden reason for this requirement which is documented somewhere or not.


Another result: Your original query (without Include) …

       .Collection(s => s.Courses)
       .Where(c => c.Id == 1)

… actually loads the courses into the DbContext as …

var localCollection = context.Courses.Local;

… shows. The course with Id 1 is indeed in this collection which means: loaded into the context. But it’s not in the child collection of the student object.

Edit 2

Perhaps it is not a bug.

First of all: We are using here two different versions of Load:

DbCollectionEntry<TEntity, TElement>.Load()

Intellisense says:

Loads the collection of entities from
the database. Note that entities that
already exist in the context are not
overwritten with values from the

For the other version (extension method of IQueryable) …

DbExtensions.Load(this IQueryable source);

… Intellisense says:

Enumerates the query such that for
server queries such as those of
and others the results of the query
will be loaded into the associated
System.Data.Objects.ObjectContext or
other cache on the client. This is
equivalent to calling ToList and then
throwing away the list without the
overhead of actually creating the

So, in this version it is not guaranteed that the child collection is populated, only that the objects are loaded into the context.

The question remains: Why gets the Presentations collection populated but not the Courses collection. And I think the answer is: Because of Relationship Span.

Relationship Span is a feature in EF which fixes automatically relationships between objects which are in the context or which are just loaded into the context. But this doesn’t happen for all types of relationships. It happens only if the multiplicity is 0 or 1 on one end.

In our example it means: When we load the Presentations into the context (by our filtered explicit query), EF also loads the foreign key of the Presentation entites to the Student entity – “transparently”, which means, no matter if the FK is exposed as property in the model of not. This loaded FK allows EF to recognize that the loaded Presentations belong to the Student entity which is already in the context.

But this is not the case for the Courses collection. A course does not have a foreign key to the Student entity. There is the many-to-many join-table in between. So, when we load the Courses EF does not recognize that those courses belong to the Student which is in the context, and therefore doesn’t fix the navigation collection in the Student entity.

EF does this automatic fixup only for references (not collections) for performance reasons:

To fix relationship, EF transparently
rewrites the query to bring
relationship info for all relations
which has multiplicity of 0..1 or1 on
the other end; in other words
navigation properties that are entity
reference. If an entity has
relationship with multiplicity of
greater then 1, EF will not bring back
the relationship info because it could
be performance hit and as compared to
bringing a single foreign along with
rest of the record. Bringing
relationship info means retrieving all
the foreign keys the records has.

Quote from page 128 of Zeeshan Hirani’s in depth guide to EF.

It is based on EF 4 and ObjectContext but I think this is still valid in EF 4.1 as DbContext is mainly a wrapper around ObjectContext.

Unfortunately rather complex stuff to keep in mind when using Load.

And another Edit

So, what can we do when we want to explicitely load one filtered side of a many-to-many relationship? Perhaps only this:

student.Courses = context.Entry(student)
       .Collection(s => s.Courses)
       .Where(c => c.Id == 1)

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