Difference Between Compiler and Interpreter

By | April 30, 2017

Complete Guide For Difference Between Compiler and Interpreter

Learn the difference between compiler and interpreter with a complete explanation on both the topics. You will find the differentiation between Compiler and Interpreter in Tabular Format as well as in Points.

The comparison between interpreter and compiler is important to understand because it helps to understand the working of a program in a better way. Some programming languages such as C and C++ requires only compiler whereas some such as PHP and Python requires only interpreter. Some programming languages such as Java, Haskell and OCaml makes use of both compiler and interpreter.


We all know very well that computers understand only binary digits 1 and 0. Hence, we can communicate with the computers only using 1s and 0s. However, it is very difficult for humans to communicate using binary digits. These compiler and interpreter programs help us in communicating with the computer systems.

These translating programs such as interpreter and compiler help us to convert our high-level source code (which is normally written in English language using C, C++, Java and other such programming languages) into low-level language or machine code which consists of only 1 and 0 that is in binary format.

Find Difference Between Compiler and Interpreter in Tabular Form and Points

Difference Between Compiler and Interpreter in Points

Compiler

A compiler is a translator program that converts a Source code into an Object code. The source code is normally written in a programming language such as C, C++ and it is translated into a Binary format which is often known as an Object code.

A compiler converts the complete source code into object code at once. It takes the complete program code as its input. This is one of the most important and basic differences between compiler and interpreter.

A compiled source code is not distributable. It means that it cannot run on multiple platforms which make it less portable than an interpreter.

The process of translating source code into machine code or object code is faster with a compiler program as compared to an interpreter as it translates the complete source code at once.

A compiler is not memory efficient. It takes up the complete source code and stores it in the memory consuming more system memory.

A compiler normally converts code from high-level programming language to low-level programming language. The source code is, therefore, converted to machine code or assembly code which consists of 1 and 0.

A compiler generates errors and warnings only after the compilation process is completed. It is, therefore, difficult to debug and sort out errors in a program since the complete source code needs to be checked, unlike an interpreter.

A compiler supports static memory allocation and it does not support dynamic memory allocation.

The programming languages that use compilers are C, C++, COBOL, ALGOL, BASIC, Go, Haskell, Java and much more.

A compiler performs different tasks such as:

  • Code Generation
  • Lexical Analysis
  • Code Optimization
  • Semantic Analysis
  • Pre – Processing
  • Parsing

There are different types of compilers such as:

  • Source – To – Source Compiler
  • Just – In – Time Compiler
  • Hardware Compiler
  • Bytecode Compiler

Must Read: Difference Between Call By Value and Call By Reference

Interpreter

An interpreter is a translator program that directly executes a source code (instruction) written in a programming language. Therefore, the interpreter does not compile the code and then execute it like a compiler. It directly executes and shows the output or the error/warnings.

An interpreter takes in only a single statement of instruction in a programming language and translates it into object or machine level code. It, therefore, interprets the complete source code line by line. An interpreter program parses an instruction and executes its immediately.


An interpreted program executes comparatively slower than a compiled program as it checks and interprets every single statement one by one every time it is executed.


The process of translating source code into machine code is slower using an interpreter program as compared to a compiler as it translates the source code line by line making it a time-consuming process. This is another important difference between compiler and interpreter.

However, an interpreter is much more memory efficient than a compiler since the complete source code need not be saved in the memory at once.

The access to variables is also slow in an interpreter since the mapping of variables and other identifiers need to be done repeatedly every time the program in under execution.

The process of interpretation hides the process of compilation from the end user. A compiler cannot be replaced by an Interpreter. An interpreter converts the source code line by line into an intermediate representation and executes its behaviour directly.

An interpreter generates errors and warnings line by line if there are any. It does not generate an error after interpreting the whole program making it more user-friendly.

An interpreter, therefore, makes debugging the source code much easier as it shows the errors line by line.

An interpreter supports dynamic memory allocation and it does not support static memory allocation.

A source code which is interpreted is distributable. It means that it can run on multiple platforms which make it more portable than the compiler. However, it is dependent on the target machine.

The programming languages that use interpreters are BASIC, C, Pascal, Python, PHP, Java, LISP and much more.

An interpreter also uses the following techniques:

  • Parser
  • Lexical Analysis

There are different types of interpreters such as:

  • Bytecode Interpreter
  • Self-Interpreter
  • Abstract Syntax Tree Interpreter
  • Threaded Code Interpreter

Must Read: Difference Between C++ and Java Programming Languages

Difference Between Compiler and Interpreter in Tabular Format

CompilerInterpreter
A Compiler translates the complete source code at once.An Interpreter translates the source code line by line. Every line is, therefore, interpreted one by one.
A compiler only translates or converts the source code into machine code.An interpreter directly executes the given instruction without compiling them.
The compilation result cannot be viewed during the course of translating the source code into object code.The interpreter results can be viewed at the translation time since it translates lines one by one.
The process of converting the source code into machine level code using a compiler is faster.The process of converting the source code into low-level machine code is slower.
Compilation process requires comparatively more memory as the object code is generated.Interpreters consume less amount of memory than a compiler.
The compiler requires less time for execution.An interpreter takes too much amount of time when compared to a compiler.
The memory size of a compiler is lower than an interpreter since it only does the task of translation or conversion into object code.The size of an interpreter is comparatively higher since it uses both translator and loader.
A compiler supports a static allocation of memory.An interpreter supports dynamic allocation of memory.
A compiler, therefore, takes the complete program as an input.An interpreter takes only a single instruction as its input.
An intermediate level code is generated during compilation.No intermediate level code is not generated during compilation.
The compiler finds and lists the errors within the complete program at once.An interpreter finds and lists the errors after interpreting every single statement.
A compiled source code is not distributable and therefore, does not offer portability.An interpreted source code is distributable and therefore, offers portability.
A compiler generates intermediate object code which makes it less memory efficient.An interpreter does not generate intermediate object code making it more memory efficient.
The compiled code is difficult to debug.Interpretation process makes it easier to debug the source code.
A compiler does not support dynamic memory allocation technique.An interpreter does not support static memory allocation technique.
Example: PHP, Python, Ruby, etc.Example: javac, GCC, clang, go, etc.
Programming languages that support compilation are C, C++, Java, C#, etc.Programming languages that support interpretation are PHP, Ruby, .NET, Python, MATLAB, Perl, BASIC, etc.

We hope that you got some good information about the difference between Compilers and Interpreters out of this article. If you have any doubts or have any extra information to share about Interpreter and Compiler, do let us know about it in the comment section below.

5 thoughts on “Difference Between Compiler and Interpreter

  1. Radhika Godambe

    Can you help me to understand what exactly is an assembler? I am so confused.

    Reply
    1. Vishal Sharma

      An assembler is somewhat similar to compiler. An assembler interprets programs written in an assembly language into a machine language.

      Reply
  2. Kironmoy Banerjee

    This is too good man. Thanks for Compiler Vs. Interpreter. 🙂

    Reply
  3. Vishal Upadhyay

    Is it possible to design our own compiler and interpreter? Please guide me on this.

    Reply
  4. Sudheer Rana

    Could you help me with understanding the actual meaning of a programming translator. It’s getting more confusing as I go deep into this stuff.

    Reply

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