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What is the difference between C and C++?

Programming is one of the most popular jobs today since it offers full options for remote work, a high salary, and job security. C is one of the most versatile languages at a programmer's disposal among all of the programming languages. As a result, many programming languages are made as extensions of C that allow other functionalities. One example is C++. Anyone who is a beginner at programming might ask what the difference between C and C++ is? Well, we are here to give you an answer!

Lines of programming code on a computer, representing the difference between C and C++ programming languages.

A little bit of history

C programming language was developed by an American computer scientist, Dennis Ritchie. Working at AT&T bell labs, he finalized C around 1969/1970. Since it proved to be a very useful programming language, it took only nine years until Bjarne Stroustrup developed C++ in 1979. Its significance is so big that C++ is one of the seven programming languages of the future to know in 2021.

The difference between C and C++

To answer the big question, the main difference between C and C++ is that C is a procedural language, while C++ is an object-oriented programming language.

Procedural programming is a concept known as a procedure call. You can look at procedures as routines or subroutines containing arrays of computational steps. When the program executes, it can call any procedure at any given time. Procedures can be called by other procedures or by themselves.

A green C++ icon.

On the other hand, object-oriented programming or OOP is based on the concept of objects. To understand how procedures are routines, we can look at objects as containers storing data in the forms of fields or procedures. Fields contain attributes and properties, while procedures are known as methods.

The main benefit of OOP is that the programs are designed out of objects that communicate between themselves and modify data when needed. The most popular type of object is a class.

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It is important to remember that C can do only procedural programming while C++ can do both procedural and object-oriented programming.

The advantages of object-oriented programming

Being an object-oriented program, C++ contains some fantastic features that you cannot use in C. Those features are:

  • polymorphism
  • encapsulation
  • inheritance

Let's look at all three features and what they mean.


Polymorphism is the ability of objects, functions, and operators to behave differently under different circumstances. A good example is the "+" operator. If used with numbers, it acts as the operator for addition:

int a = 1; int b = 2; int c = a + b;

This meant that int c has the value of 3.

However, if used with strings, the "+" operator concatenates two strings:

string a = "What is the difference"; string b = "between C and C++?";

string c = a + b;

The result will be the entire sentence, "What is the difference between C and C++?".

We can further divide polymorphism into compile-time polymorphism and runtime polymorphism.

If a function is called at the time of program compiling, that is called compile-time polymorphism. It is also known as early binding or static binding. The two types of compile-time polymorphism are function overloading and operator overloading.

A grid of icons of different programming languages.

If a function is called at the moment when the program is executed, that is known as runtime polymorphism or late/dynamic binding. One type of this polymorphism is called function overriding.

Let's look at these three types in more detail.

Function overloading

Function overloading is the ability of functions to perform multiple tasks using the same name and different arguments. For example, you can create a function that will add two numbers and concatenate two strings. When you call the function, it will perform both tasks.

Operator overloading

To explain operator overloading, it is crucial to look at this example:

int a = 5; int b = 5; int c = a + b;

In this case, since int is a variable that can hold numbers, it is pretty natural to use the "+" operator to add them together. The result C will be equal to 10.

However, let's say that we want to create a custom class called Position that holds the values of some coordinates:

class Position { public: int x = 10; int y = 20; };

Next, we can create instances of this class:

int main { Position pos1, pos2; }

If we were to try and add pos1 + pos2, we would get an error in return because C++ does not treat pos1 and pos2 as variables that can hold numbers but as objects of the Position class. To add them together, we have to "teach" the function how to do this addition by writing additional lines of code, which is called operator overloading. What we are doing is assigning additional tasks to operators without changing their actual meaning.

Function overriding

With function overriding, we can give a new definition to a base class function during runtime. For example, if you create a function that adds two numbers together, you can later change that function within a derived class and tell it to multiply two numbers. When called, it will return both the addition and the multiplication. That's what we call function overriding.


Another critical feature of C++ that C does not have is encapsulation. It is a way to bundle or group data sets and make them available to use only within that group. For example, let's create a class:

class Box{ public: int getNumber (void) {return a + b;} private: int a = 1; int b = 2; }

Elements a and b are labeled private, and other elements of the Box class can only use them. They are completely invisible outside of this class. However, the function getNumber is made public, so that means you can call it from anywhere inside the program. The idea of encapsulation is to protect data and restrict the usage to only parts of the program that should have access to it.


We said that C++ is an object-oriented programming language. All objects are structured into two types:

  • parent object;
  • child object.

The rule of inheritance means that all objects automatically inherit the properties and behaviors of their parent object. The most significant advantage of this feature is that it allows code reusability. Once you define an object, you can create as many instances of that object as you want, but you don't have to define it again.

As you can see, understanding these differences between C and C++ is an essential step if you wish to start making apps. The power of object-oriented programming gives you a lot of possibilities.

The importance of object-oriented programming

Now that we know some of the main differences between C and C++, we can see how important it is. You can use OOP in game design or to create apps for all types of devices. Even though C++ is not usually used for web development, you can use it to build an adequate website for your business. It will be in the form of an online application. OOP offers a vast range of features, and understanding the main concepts will give you a strong base in learning programming.

A few closing words

So, what is the difference between C and C++? Well, if there is one thing to take from all of this, it is that C is a procedural language, and C++ is an object-oriented programming language. C++ has developed over the years so much that you can look at it as C on steroids. All of the fantastic features it has made it a separate programming language, even though it derived from C. While C focuses on simple code, C++ has more complex functionalities, making it a must-know skill. Even today, C++ evolves. If someone thinks of a way to improve C, they focus on adding that feature to C++ and make it even better. OOP is the future of programming, and if you are thinking about what language to learn, C++ is the way to go. Do not be afraid if you don't understand it right away. It does take some time to catch on, but the benefits are rewarding and long-lasting. Good luck on the path to becoming a C++ programmer!

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