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C and C++ Compared, Know The Differences8 min read

When we talk about programming languages, C and C++ appear in the list as early programming languages. Most of the other programming languages like Java, Python, Scala, etc. came after C and C++. You can consider these two programming languages for setting the base for other programming languages.

There are a lot of old school programmers out there who still work on C or C++. You might be shocked to know that according to TIOBE (Programming Community Index), C ranks on number 1 and C++ on rank 4. According to PyPL (PopularitY of Programming Language), C/C++ both rank on 6th position, still above many other programming languages like Typescript, R, Go, Ruby, Scala, etc.

Follow our comparision of C vs C++ and let me introduce them briefly the C programming language.

What is C?

C programming language is known as the mother of all programming languages present in the software industry.

C was developed at Bell Laboratories (USA) in 1972 by Dennis Ritchie. C was originally implemented on DEC pdp-11 machine. C is well known to be flexible and versatile which allows maximum control with a minimal number of commands and it is a very user-friendly programming language, and it is highly readable.

Below are some of the features of C programming language:

  • It is a high-level programming language. Any programming language is considered as a high-level language if it is written in English or uses a readable language which is user-friendly and easy to understand.
  • C language is considered to be a structured programming language as it improves the clarity and quality, and it reduces the development time for designing a programming software.
  • It has its own rich set of libraries which includes most of the arithmetic and logical operations, which are predefined. You just have to include the libraries which you need and then you can execute the functionality of those libraries without having to code them separately.
  • C programming language supports recursion. You don’t have to write the function multiple times, instead wherever you need the function, you just have to call it. It reduces the time involved in the development cycle and also improves the code functionality.
  • C programming language uses pointers to interact with the physical memory of the computer system directly.
  • C programs execute faster than its predecessors.
  • C programming language offers many functions where we can dynamically and directly interact with the memory of the computer system.

What is C++?

C++ is a general-purpose programming language created in the year 1979 by Bjarne Stroustrup as an extension to C programming language. It is considered as the most important and basic requirement to understand the object-oriented style of programming. It was created at a well-established Bell Laboratories of American Telephone and Telegraph popularly known as the AT&T company.

He developed a C++ programming language in order to integrate the object-oriented style of programming into C language without having to make any significant change to the C fundamentals.

Below are some of the features of C++ programming language:

  • C++ language incorporates multiple built-in arithmetic and logical functions along with many built-in libraries which make development faster and convenient.
  • C++ programming language is designed to be an object-oriented programming language which makes development and maintenance easier.
  • C++ programming language is a compiler-based programming language. It means without compilation, no C++ program can be executed.
  • C++ programming language is highly extensible because of its easy adaptable features.
  • C++ language supports function backtracking which involves a recursion. In this process, you can call a function within another function for multiple number of times.
  • C++ enables you to use pointers to directly interact with memory.
  • C++ programming language supports structured programming which includes the use of functions. Functions reduce the code complexity, and they are totally reusable.
  • C++ provides the best in-class memory management it can both allocate and deallocate memory dynamically at any instance of time.

Let us now understand the differences between C and C++ programming languages.

C vs C++


The syntax of both the programming languages look similar, but they are technically different. The headers are different, input/output implementations are also different. In C, you use printf and scanf whereas in C++, you use cout and cin.

Here is a hello world program in C:

Here is a hello world program in C++:

Programming Model

C is based on a procedural programming model, whereas C++ is based on an object-oriented programming model.

Procedural programming is also called structured programming. In this model, you have procedures, functions, routines to perform a task or a series of tasks. This model follows a step by step approach by breaking a task into a set of instruction and then execute these instructions sequentially one by one.

Whereas in the Object-oriented programming model, you use classes and objects depending on the real-world environment. This model is very popular as it helps you write, modify and maintain your code with ease. Here the program is divided into instances of a class having small chunks of objects. With this model, you can use the abstraction feature which provides data security. It is not present in procedural programming.

Coding Approach

C follows the top-down coding approach, whereas C++ follows the bottom-up approach.

In the top-down approach, you divide a big problem on the top into multiple smaller problems until you reach the bottom level, where the smaller problem is very easy to code. Each function used in smaller problems is unique and independent of other functions. It begins with a high-level design and ends with a low-level design. This type of approach is useful for debugging and documentation.

In the bottom-up approach, you work on the smaller problems (modules) at the bottom and then combine them to reach to the top-level programmable problem. It starts with a low-level design and ends with a high-level design. Here, you write code for each module separately and then finally integrate all of them into the main function. This type of approach is useful for unit testing.

Intent of Use

C programming language is better suited for embedded systems as it provides more performance here compared to others. The majority of system applications on operating systems like Windows, Unix and Linux are built on C. C is also used in developing database systems, compilers, interpreters, etc.

C++ programming language is better suited for real-world problem statement. It can work with all the applications where C is used, plus it is also used for applications based on the graphical user interface (GUI), games, media players, web browsers, cloud or distributed systems where object oriented programming features are required.

Which language should you learn first?

There is no straightforward answer to this question. But it depends on what kind of problem statement you are working on and in which programming language it would be easier to implement.

Now you must be thinking that you should definitely start learning C++ first because it has many features and can do everything which C does. But if you are a beginner and just starting to learn to program, I would definitely recommend starting with C language. It gives you a great base for thinking in a creative way and also solving programming problems.

After you learn C, then C++ will be perfect for you because it will be something like a bridge between procedural programming and object-oriented programming.

If you are trying to solve a complex real-world problem and require security for the functionalities being developed, C++ should be your choice.

Final Thoughts

C and C++ are similar in a lot of ways, but C++ has a lot more additional features that C programming language does not. From the name itself, C++ is an improvement or a superset of C. So, C++ can actually run most of the C code, but C cannot run C++ codes.

The main difference is that C is a procedural programming language, so it does not support classes and objects, while C++ is a mix of both procedural and object-oriented programming language, so C++ can be called a hybrid language.

The syntax of C and C++ look very similar to each other. Most of the keywords and operators from C are still present in C++ and have pretty much the same purpose. The basic memory model of both languages is very close to the hardware. They have the same concepts of stack, heap, file, scope and static variables. Actually, the compilation of code is also very similar.

But after being so very similar, they are still very different and two separate programming languages. Here is a summary for you to easily understand the differences between C and C++ programming languages.

Created ByDennis RitchieBjarne Stroustrup
Programming ModelProcedural programming languageObject-oriented programming language
Programming ApproachTop-down approachBottom-up approach
KeywordsSupports 32 keywordsSupports 62 keywords
OOPs ConceptsDoes not support inheritance, encapsulation, polymorphismSupports inheritance, encapsulation, polymorphism
Exception HandlingNot supportedSupported
Data SecurityInformation hiding is not supportedData can be hidden and secured using encapsulation
Variable DeclarationCan be done only at the top of the programCan be done anywhere in the program
NamespaceNot supportedSupported
Memory AllocationProvides memory allocation features using malloc(), calloc(), free() functionsProvides memory allocation features using new and delete operators
ApplicationGood for embedded devices and system-level applicationGood for gaming, networking, server-side applications etc.

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