What is the difference between Compiler and Interpreter?

Both compilers and interpreters are the language processors used to convert software codes written in high-level language into machine language codes. Compilers and interpreters are types of system software. They are required because a computer cannot process a code written in high-level programming language like C, C++, Java, etc. Therefore, we convert a HLL code into machine code for execution.

In this article, we will highlight all the major differences between a compiler and an interpreter. Let's start with some basics so that it will become easier to understand their differences.

What is a Compiler?

A language processor that converts a program written in high-level language into machine language, entire program at once, is called a compiler. Thus, the input of a compiler is a high-level language code (called source code), while its output is a machine language code (called object code).

A compiler scans whole program and then check it for syntactic and semantic error, once the code is checked for errors, it is converted into an object code. Then, it can be processed by the machine to perform the corresponding task. The common programming languages that use compiler are C, C++, C#, etc.

Advantages of Compiler

There are various advantages of the compiler which are as follows −

  • A compiler translates a program in a single run.

  • It consumes less time.

  • CPU utilization is more.

  • Both syntactic and semantic errors can be checked concurrently.

  • It is easily supported by many high-level languages like C, C++, JAVA, etc.

What is an Interpreter?

A language translator that converts a high-level language program into a machine language program, one line at a time, is referred to as an interpreter. Interpreters converts the codes slower than compiler. This is because the interpreter can scan and translate only one statement of the program at a time. Therefore, interpreters convert the source code into machine code during the execution of the program.

Interpreters do not generate an object code corresponding to the source code. However, these are relatively easy to use and execute the code. The programming languages that use interpreters are Perl, Ruby, Python, METLAB, etc.

Advantages of Interpreter

There are various advantages of the interpreter which are as follows −

  • An interpreter translates the program line by line.

  • The interpreter is smaller in size.

  • It is flexible.

  • Error localization is easier.

  • The interpreter facilitates the implementation of computer programming language constructs.

Difference between Compiler and Interpreter

The following table highlights all the significant differences between a Compiler and an Interpreter −

Parameter Compiler Interpreter
Program scanning Compilers scan the entire program in one go. The program is interpreted/translated one line at a time.
Error detection As and when scanning is performed, all the errors are shown in the end together, not line by line. One line of code is scanned, and errors encountered are shown.
Object code Compilers convert the source code to object code. Interpreters do not convert the source code into object code.
Execution time The execution time of compiler is less, hence it is preferred. It is not preferred due to its slow speed. Usually, interpreter is slow, and hence takes more time to execute the object code.
Need of source code Compiler doesn’t require the source code for execution later. It requires the source code for execution later.
Programming languages Programming languages that use compilers include C, C++, C#, etc.. Programming languages that uses interpreter include Python, Ruby, Perl, MATLAB, etc.
Types of errors detected Compiler can check syntactic and semantic errors in the program simultaneously. Interpreter checks the syntactic errors only.
Size Compiler are larger in size. Interpreters are smaller in size.
Flexibility Compilers are not flexible. Interpreters are relatively flexible.
Efficiency Compilers are more efficient. Interpreters are less efficient.


The most significant difference between a compiler and an interpreter is that a compiler scans the entire program in one go, while an interpreter scans the program line by line. However, both are used in different applications depending on the requirements of the programming language.

Updated on: 02-Sep-2023

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