Python vs C may be a comparison you struggle with when looking for a programming language to learn. When you are new to programming, it can be hard to choose a programming language to begin with. A couple dozen are widely used these days, and their names hardly tell anything about what they can do or their uses. Also, although some programming languages are general purpose and work for more applications than others, the language you choose will have a large influence on the type of work you will be able to do with it and the type of jobs you can get writing the code.

Python and C are both popular programming languages, but they are popular for different reasons and most of their usage doesn’t overlap. Once you understand the differences and their uses, you will be better equipped to choose the right one for your purpose.

coded language on screen

What is Python?

Python is a high-level, object-oriented programming language. It supports functional and procedural programming as well, making it a multi-paradigm language. Guido van Rossum originally released it in 1991.

Features of Python

Some features of Python that make it popular are:

What is Python used for?

Python is a general purpose programming language that has a wide variety of uses, including:

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Python code example

We will take a look at the differences between Python and C, but first it helps to have examples of code in both languages to see some of the differences. Here is a Python program that will calculate a Fibonacci sequence to the length input by a user.

nterms = int(input(“How many terms? “))

# first two terms
n1, n2 = 0, 1
count = 0

# check that the number of terms is valid
if nterms <= 0:
  print(“Please enter a positive number”)
# if there is only one term, return it
elif nterms == 1:
  print(“Fibonacci sequence up to”,nterms,”:”)
  print(n1)
# generate fibonacci sequence
else:
  print(“Fibonacci:”)
  while count < nterms:
      print(n1)
      nth = n1 + n2
      # update values
      n1 = n2
      n2 = nth
      count += 1

What is C?

C is a structured, mid-level programming language that is also general purpose. Dennis Ritchie at Bell Labs developed it in 1972 as one of the foundations of the Unix operating system.

Features of C

C has many features that makes it a popular language, including:

What is C used for?

C is used wherever performance or low-level hardware control is needed, including:

C code example

Here is a C code example that does the same thing as the Python code example. It calculates a Fibonacci sequence to the length input by a user:

#include <stdio.h>
int main() {

  int i, n;

  // create the first and second terms
  int t1 = 0, t2 = 1;

  // create the next term (3rd term)
  int nextTerm = t1 + t2;

  // get the numbers of terms from user
  printf(“Enter the number of terms: “);
  scanf(“%d”, &n);

  // print the first two terms
  printf(“Fibonacci Series: %d, %d, “, t1, t2);

  // print 3rd to nth terms
  for (i = 3; i <= n; ++i) {
    printf(“%d, “, nextTerm);
    t1 = t2;
    t2 = nextTerm;
    nextTerm = t1 + t2;
  }

  return 0;
}

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Python vs C: important differences

Here is a brief overview of some of the most noteworthy differences between Python and C before we take a deeper look into all of the differences between them. To begin with, Python is an interpreted language, whereas C is a compiled language. Another difference between Python and C is that Python is an object-oriented programming language (a programming model where an object represents each entity in the code) while C is a structured, procedure based programming language (a programming model derived from structured programming based on the concept of calling procedures or functions).

In addition, C is mainly used to develop firmware and portable systems where performance and speed are of paramount importance. Python, on the other hand, is a general-purpose programming language applied in various areas, including web development, data science, machine learning, and more.

Overview of the differences between Python and C

Python and C have a lot more differences than the ones just mentioned. So many, in fact, that they are best represented in this table:

Metric ComparedPythonC
DeveloperGuido van Rossum developed the Python programming language, releasing the first version in 1991.Dennis Ritchie developed the C programming language and released the first version in 1972.
Ease of usePython is considered easy to learn and one of the easiest languages to use because its syntax reads almost like English and it uses fewer symbols.C has a steeper learning curve because it requires you to build many things from scratch and uses more symbols.
Language typePython is a high-level general purpose programming language that gets translated into machine language using an interpreter.C is a mid-level language that provides a bridge between machine code and higher level programming languages.
Programming modelsPython is a multi-paradigm language that supports procedural programming, imperative programming, functional programming, and object-oriented programming.C is a procedural programming language.
ExecutionThe Python programming language is an interpreted language. Python code runs through an interpreter that checks the code while the program executes.C is a compiled language that converts the source code you write into machine code by using a compiler that checks all the code as it compiles. The code must compile before it can execute.
SpeedBecause Python is an interpreted programming language that translates code into machine code at runtime and has the overhead of garbage collection, a Python program is generally slower.Because C is a compiled programming language that creates standalone executables and doesn’t have built-in garbage collection, C programs generally run faster.
Development speedPython, because of its ease of use, simple syntax, and available third-party libraries, is often used where applications need quick prototyping.C programs often involve building simple functionality from scratch and require a lot of planning, so development takes longer.
SyntaxPython uses line breaks to determine a line of code and white space to determine blocks of code.C has a syntax that uses semicolons to determine lines of code and curly brackets to determine blocks of code.
RobustnessBecause of the strong memory management and high-level language features it provides, Python is a more robust programming language.When compared to Python, C is less robust because you must manage memory yourself and deal with low-level functionality.
Built-in functionsPython comes with a large library of built-in modules and functions for all types of functionality like saving data with SQLite, connecting to the internet, etc.C comes with very few built-in functions compared to Python, and you have to depend on using third-party libraries or even writing the code from scratch for high-level functionality.
Variable declarationVariables in python have dynamic types that are determined by the interpreter and can change. For example, you can create a variable as a string and later change it to an integer.Variables in C have static types that have to be declared. This means before you can set a variable you have to set its type, and this type cannot change.
DebuggingDebugging errors in Python is easier because it is an interpreted language. You can launch a debugger that runs with the application and stops execution when an error occurs and shows you exactly on which line of code the error occurred.Because C is a compiled language, debugging errors in a program is more difficult. Often when you encounter an error you haven’t accounted for in the compiled code, it can be hard to track down where and why it happened.
PointersPython does not support pointers.C uses pointers.
Memory managementPython comes with built-in memory management features that remove variables from memory when they are no longer used.C does not have built-in memory management, and the developer must manage memory manually.
Inline assignmentIn Python, assignment is a statement, not an expression, and it cannot be used inside of an expression.In C, inline variable assignment is allowed.
File extensionPython stores source code with the file extension .py, which gets converted to byte code with a file extension of .pyc before executing it.C stores source code with the file extension .c and with header files that contain declarations with the file extension of h. When compiling, C uses the execution file extension of the operating system (i.e., .exe in Windows).
Data typesPython has lists, dictionaries, sets, tuples, and more data types along with the basic data types.C only has basic data types like integer, float, string, char, struct, and array.
Data structuresImplementing data structures in Python is easier, since many of its built-in types come with built-in methods like insert and append.In C, you have to implement data structures from scratch and write custom methods for them.
Functional unitsThe largest functional unit in Python is the object generated from a Python class.The largest functional unit of C is the function.
Garbage collectionPython has built-in garbage collection and other memory management features.C does not support automated garbage collection or any kind of automated memory management.
Function renamingPython supports function renaming, which means that one function can be known by more than one name.C does not support function renaming, and each function can only have one name.
Variable scopeIn Python, variables created inside a loop are accessible outside of it.In C, variables are not accessible outside of a loop.
Third-party librariesPython has a large selection of third-party libraries for artificial intelligence, machine learning, gaming, web development, and more.You can find many third-party libraries for C that work well but not as many as you can for Python and not much at all for high-level tasks.
TOIBE ratingPython has a TOIBE rank of 1.C has a TOIBE rank of 2.
ApplicationPython is a more general purpose programming language that has high-level features making it useful for developing a wide variety of applications, from web apps to desktop apps and more.The biggest features of C are its performance and low-level hardware management functionality, making it useful for hardware drivers and anywhere performance is a necessity.
Average annual salaryThe average annual salary for a Python developer in the United States is US$110,947.The average annual salary for a C developer in the United States is US$96,131.
Companies using itSome of the tech companies using Python include Google, Facebook, Quora, Amazon, Stripe, and Instagram.Some of the companies using C include Twitch, Github, MasterCard, Netflix, Spotify, and Telegram.

Python vs C: Which do you choose?

Which of these languages you choose to learn depends on what type of applications you see yourself building in the future and what type of programming you want to do. If you plan on working on hardware and low-level systems or with applications that depend on speed and performance, then C is the language for you. Python is a general purpose language used for web development, desktop development, service development, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and more. And nothing says that you can’t learn both.

If you are ready to start learning one of these powerful programming languages, you can do it here at Udemy at your own pace. To start learning Python, visit our Python course page. If C is the language for you, we also have a wide variety of C programming courses. You may also want to learn about the differences between Python and C++. C++ is an extended version of C that adds modern object-oriented features to C.

Page Last Updated: May 2022