Difference Between Compiler and Interpreter

By | April 30, 2017

Let us understand the difference between compiler and interpreter in detail with a complete understanding of compilation and interpretation processes in tabular formatted points.

It is important to understand the comparison between interpreter and compiler as it helps to understand the working of a program in a better way.

There are some programming languages like C and C++ that requires only a compiler whereas some such as PHP and python requires only an interpreter.

However, there are some programming languages such as Java, Haskell, and OCaml which make use of both compiler and interpreter.

Why Compiler and Interpreter?

The computers understand only binary digits – 1 and 0. Therefore, 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 by converting the 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 Format And Points With Explanation Of Interpretation And Compilation Process

Difference Between Compiler and Interpreter in Points


A compiler is a translator program that converts a source code into an object code. The source code is normally written in C, C++, etc. 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 difference between compiler and interpreter.

A compiled source code is non distributed. Hence, it cannot be executed on other platforms which causes portability issues.

The process of translating a source code into machine code (object code) is faster using a compiler 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 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 only static memory allocation and does not support dynamic memory allocation.

The programming languages that use compilation are C, C++COBOL, ALGOL, BASIC, Go, Haskell, Java, etc.

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


An interpreter is a translator program that directly executes a source code (instruction) line by line written in a programming language which is a basic difference between compiler and interpreter.

An interpreter takes in only a single statement of instruction as an input and translates it into object or machine level code. An interpreter program parses an instruction and executes its immediately.

The 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 making it a very time-consuming process.


However, an interpreter is much more memory efficient than a compiler since it takes in only a line of instruction as compared to the complete source code.

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

An interpreter converts the source code line by line into an intermediate representation and executes its behavior 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.

An interpreted source code is distributed. It can, therefore, execute on multiple platforms making it more portable than a compiler.

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

An interpreter 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

Sr. No.CompilerInterpreter
1.A compiler translates the complete source code at once.An interpreter translates the source code line by line.
2.A compiler only translates or converts the source code into machine code.An interpreter directly executes the given instruction without compiling them.
3.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 the source code line by line.
4.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.
5.Compilation process requires comparatively more memory as the object code is generated.Interpreters consume less amount of memory than a compiler.
6.The compiler requires less time for execution.An interpreter takes too much amount of time when compared to a compiler.
7.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.
8.A compiler supports a static allocation of memory.An interpreter supports dynamic allocation of memory.
9.A compiler, therefore, takes the complete program as an input.An interpreter takes only a single instruction as its input.
10.An intermediate level code is generated during compilation.No intermediate level code is not generated during compilation.
11.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.
12.A compiled source code is not distributable and therefore, does not offer portability.An interpreted source code is distributable and therefore, offers portability.
13.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.
14.The compiled code is difficult to debug.Interpretation process makes it easier to debug the source code.
15.A compiler does not support dynamic memory allocation technique.An interpreter does not support static memory allocation technique.
16.Example: PHP, Python, Ruby, etc.Example: javac, GCC, clang, go, etc.
17.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.

If you have any doubts or any suggestions about the difference between compiler and interpreter, let us discuss 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.

    1. Vishal Sharma

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

  2. Kironmoy Banerjee

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

  3. Vishal Upadhyay

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

  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.


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