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Procedural Language vs. Non-procedural Language: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on February 6, 2024
Procedural Language focuses on the steps to solve a problem; commands are executed in sequence. Non-Procedural Language specifies what needs to be done, not how; more about the outcome than steps.

Key Differences

Procedural languages are grounded in the traditional approach of programming, emphasizing a step-by-step method of solving problems. Non-procedural languages, in contrast, are more abstract, focusing on what the end result should be rather than detailing every individual step to get there.
In procedural languages, programmers must provide explicit instructions for every operation. Non-procedural languages, alternatively, allow developers to state their requirements or conditions, and the language's interpreter or compiler figures out the steps to achieve the desired outcome.
Procedural languages are typically more detailed and explicit, making them sometimes more labor-intensive but also clearer in terms of understanding the logic flow. Non-procedural languages, on the other hand, are often more succinct and can be easier to write, but may require more sophisticated understanding of how the language interprets commands.
Examples of procedural languages include C and Java, where developers write code that executes in a specific order. Non-procedural languages, such as SQL and Prolog, allow users to describe what they want to achieve, and the system determines the best way to achieve it.
The choice between procedural and non-procedural languages often depends on the task at hand. Procedural languages are preferred for tasks where control and specificity are key, while non-procedural languages are better suited for tasks involving complex data relationships or where the end goal is known but the path is not.

Comparison Chart


Step-by-step instructions
Outcome-based specifications

Control Flow

Explicit sequence of operations
Implicit determination of operations

Code Detail

Detailed and explicit
Abstract and succinct


C, Java
SQL, Prolog

Use Cases

Tasks requiring specific control
Complex data relations or unclear paths

Procedural Language and Non-procedural Language Definitions

Procedural Language

Requires detailed step-by-step instructions for tasks.
In Java, you define every step to sort a list of numbers.

Non-procedural Language

Focuses on the 'what' rather than the 'how' of problem-solving.
In SQL, you request data without specifying the retrieval process.

Procedural Language

Focuses on how the problem is solved, detailing each action.
In Pascal, you specify the procedure to calculate a factorial.

Non-procedural Language

Often used in database query languages and AI applications.
In LINQ, you query collections in a declarative manner.

Procedural Language

Operates through a series of procedural calls and routines.
In BASIC, you use subroutines to handle different parts of a program.

Non-procedural Language

More abstract, reducing the need for intricate control details.
In R, you manipulate datasets without low-level data handling.

Procedural Language

Emphasizes explicit control and sequence of operations.
In C, you write a loop to iterate over an array.

Non-procedural Language

Suited for complex data relationships and pattern recognition.
In MATLAB, you solve mathematical problems with high-level functions.

Procedural Language

Suitable for tasks where control flow is critical.
In Assembly, you manually manage memory and processor instructions.

Non-procedural Language

Allows specification of desired results, not the steps to get there.
In Prolog, you define facts and rules, and the system infers answers.


What is an example of a non-procedural language?

SQL is a common example, used for database queries.

Can you give an example of a procedural language?

Yes, C and Java are classic examples of procedural languages.

What is a procedural language?

A language where the programmer specifies exactly how to do tasks through step-by-step instructions.

What is a non-procedural language?

A language where the programmer specifies what to do, not how to do it, focusing on the end result.

How do procedural languages handle tasks?

They require detailed, explicit commands for every step of a task.

Is Java a procedural language?

Yes, Java is considered a procedural language, although it also supports object-oriented concepts.

Is SQL considered non-procedural?

Yes, SQL is a non-procedural language as it focuses on what data is needed, not how to retrieve it.

Are non-procedural languages easier to learn?

They can be, especially for beginners, due to less focus on detailed control flow.

Is C++ procedural or non-procedural?

C++ is primarily procedural, but it also supports object-oriented and generic programming.

Are procedural languages better than non-procedural languages?

It depends on the task; procedural languages offer more control, while non-procedural are often more efficient for complex data relationships.

Do procedural languages have better performance?

They can, especially in scenarios where fine-tuned control is necessary.

Are non-procedural languages good for AI and machine learning?

Yes, their abstract nature makes them well-suited for AI and machine learning applications.

Are procedural languages more suitable for embedded systems?

Yes, due to their detailed control and efficiency in resource-constrained environments.

Why choose a non-procedural language for database queries?

Because they allow you to specify what data is needed without detailing how to fetch it.

What's the approach of non-procedural languages to problem-solving?

They focus on defining the desired outcome, leaving the process to the language's interpreter.

Is Python a procedural or non-procedural language?

Python supports both paradigms but is often used as a procedural language.

Can procedural languages handle complex data relationships well?

While possible, non-procedural languages are typically better suited for this.

Do non-procedural languages require less coding?

Generally, yes, because they focus on the outcome rather than detailed steps.

Can procedural languages be used for database management?

Yes, but non-procedural languages like SQL are often more efficient for this purpose.

Is JavaScript a procedural language?

JavaScript supports procedural programming but also includes object-oriented and functional features.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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