Difference between C and C++

When we begin to learn to program we are given the choice of selecting the language we are most comfortable to code in. Nowadays, java and python are the most preferred languages to code, by the young coders. However, the basics are always taught in C and then C++.

For decades now C and C++ have been commonly applied in multiple fields. Even the beliefs that these languages are dying are proven to be incorrect. C and C++ are growing day by day. They allow us to maximize the potential of our hardware.

Both these languages are simple, correct and most importantly quicker as compared to others. C and C++ are considered to be very easy programming languages.

But the question is why learn C and C++ separately and do they differ from each other?

Difference between C and C++

C vs C++

● The most significant difference is that C is a procedural programming language while C++ is a combination of procedural and object-oriented programming language. C programming revolves around functions while in C++ the importance is given to the data of the problem and the classes built around it. C++ was developed after C language and is a superset of the latter. It was developed as an extension to the C language. C++ inherits all features of C programming. C is a middle-level language ie. a hybrid of low-level and high- level language. Programs written in C can be programmed and run efficiently on C++ compilers. However, vice versa is not possible.

● C language doesn’t support class and objects. C++ on the other hand supports all object-oriented features like abstraction, inheritance, polymorphism, encapsulation, etc.

● As C is a procedural language it focuses more on the steps of execution than the data of the problem statement. C++ is an object-oriented programming language which makes it necessary to focus on objects and classes built for the solution.

● C programming follows the top-down approach while C++ follows a bottom-up approach. This means that in C language, a problem is decomposed or divided into tasks, then further into sub-tasks and so on.  This is advantageous as it is easier to keep track of the progress of implementation while also making debugging and testing easier. It helps control time delays with lesser efforts. In the case of the C++ programming language, a top-down approach, which is an alternative to the bottom-up approach, is used. Here bottom level modules are first tested, debugged and then we move upwards to the higher-level modules. This approach supports reusability of code.

● C language is useful for programming of embedded systems and low-level programming. C++, on the contrary, is used for network applications or server-side applications.

● Since C programming is more focused on the procedures/ functions, the security provided for the data is almost negligible. In C++, since the focus is primarily on data, it is securely stored using classes, encapsulation etc.

● C programs are saved with .c extension while C++ programs are saved with .cpp extension.

● The standard input-output operations used in C to read/write data from/to the device are scanf/printf. In C++ data is read using cin and printed using cout.

● In C++ main function cannot be called from other functions in the code and is a single execution point, whereas with C we can call the main function using other functions.

● Variables in C++ can be declared anywhere in the function(they have to be declared compulsorily), however, for C it has to be necessarily declared at the beginning of the block.

● C language allows multiple declarations of global variables but C++ does not allow so.

● Pointers are used to store the addresses of variables in memory. References are name constants for a variable which can’t be changed to refer to another. C and C++ support pointers and operations on pointers. C does not support references while C++ does.

● C supports only 32 keywords while C++ supports a lot more, ie. 52.

● Default headers are used for including system oriented header files. C uses <stdio.h> while C++ uses <iostream.h>

● C and C++ have different ways for memory management as well. C uses functions such as calloc(), malloc(), realloc (), etc., to allocate memory and the free () function to free the memory. But, in the case of  C++, we use new () and delete () operators to allocate and deallocate the memory respectively.

C and C++ belong to the same base but have a lot of differences. The above-listed differences are a handful. To summarize them, the difference between C and C++ is added in the table below.

Difference between C and C++

C C++
Procedural programming language Procedural and Object-oriented programming language
Does not support object-oriented concepts like polymorphism, function overloading, etc. Supports all object-oriented concepts
C has 32 keywords C++ has 52 keywords
C does not provide security to data C++ provides high data security
C supports built-in and primitive data types C++ supports user-defined data types along with built-in and primitive data types.
Does not support namespace Supports namespace
In C, data and functions are separate entities. In C++, data and functions are encapsulated together in the form of an object.
For programming related to GUI, uses Gtk tools For programming related to GUI, uses Qt tools
C is a subset of C++ C++ is a superset of C.
Inline functions are not supported in C In C++, inline functions, as well as macros, are used.
C language allows multiple declarations of global variables. C++ doesn’t allow multiple declarations of global variables.
In C, error handling occurs through functions. C++ has a unique exception handling (Try and Catch blocks).
In C, top down approach of dividing problem into smaller tasks is followed In C++, the bottom up approach of first debugging the low level modules is followed.
C is a middle level language C++ is a high level language.


Shriya Upasani
MIT World Peace University


1. https://www.includehelp.com/c-programming-questions/difference-between-c-and-cpp.aspx
2. https://cs-fundamentals.com/tech-interview/c/difference-between-c-and-cpp
3. https://www.includehelp.com/cpp-tutorial/top-down-and-bottom-up-approach.aspx
4. https://cs-fundamentals.com/tech-interview/c/difference-between-c-and-cpp

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