Online Tutorials & Training Materials |
Register Login

Difference Between Compiler and Interpreter

|| 0

Difference Between Compiler and Interpreter

In general, computer programs are written using high-level languages that are easy to understand by humans. The syntax of these languages usually consists of phrases or words drawn from the English language. However, as the processing unit of a computer fails to understand the high-level languages, it makes the use of interpreters and compilers to convert the given instructions into 0s and 1s or the binary/machine language.  

In other words, the source code or the high-level language can only be understood by a computer after it is converted into machine language with the help of a compiler or interpreter. Though these words are used interchangeably, they are quite different in their features and functionality. Here, we help you take a closer look at the role of a compiler and interpreter and understand what is the difference between an interpreter and compiler?

Interpreter vs Compiler

The differences between a compiler and interpreter are tabulated below:



The various steps of programming are:

1. Creation of the program.

2. There is no machine code generation or linking of files.

3. The statements in source code are executed at the time of execution, one line at a time.


The various steps of programming are:

1. Creation of the program.
2. Compiling of program to parse or analyze the statements in one go for their correctness.
3. An error is thrown in case of any incorrect statement.
4. In case the program is error-free, the compiler will translate it from source code to binary language code.
5. The different code files are linked to form an executable program termed as exe.
6. The program is executed.

Once interpreted, the programs can only run on systems having the corresponding interpreter.

The program cannot be modified without reverting to the source code.

Interpreters check one line after another and so the overall time taken for interpreting the full program is more than that taken by the compiler to complete its job.

As the program code has already been translated into machine language, the time taken for code execution is less. It compiles the whole program all at once and is thus faster.

No target code or intermediate code is created by an interpreter.

A target code or intermediate code is generated by a compiler.

The interpreter does not generate any object code and so the memory required is low.

The object code is generated by the compiler and so it needs more memory space.

An interpreter displays errors of every single statement one after the other; this makes it easy for the user to detect errors

A compiler shows all the errors concurrently. Therefore, it is not easy to detect the errors individually.

In an interpreter, when an error shows up, the translation process is paused for a specific line; the translation of the next line is resumed after the error is taken care of by the debugger.

In a compiler, if an error shows up in the program, the translation process is stopped. The whole program goes through the translation process again once the debugging takes place.

It is based on the Interpretation model.

It is based on the language translation linking & loading model.

An Interpreter is used for interpreting programs written in Ruby, Python, Java, PHP, etc.

The compiler is useful for compiling programming languages like Scala, C, C++, C#, etc.

It takes a single line of the program code as its input.

The entire program forms the input for a compiler.

An interpreter is suitable for the development and program environment.

A compiler is best suited for the production environment.

The interpreted machine languages support the cause of Dynamic Typing

Dynamic Typing is difficult to implement as the compilers cannot predict the happenings at turn time.

The machine codes are not saved at all.

The compiler stores machine language in the form of machine codes on the disk.

What is a Compiler?

A compiler is defined as a computer program that is equipped to transform the codes written in high-level programming languages into machine codes. It translates the codes understood by humans into binary codes comprising of 1 and 0 bits. The codes translated to binary or machine language are processed by the computer to carry out corresponding tasks. 


Role of a Compiler

  • It is important for the compiler to comply with all laid down rules pertaining to the syntax of the language in which it developed. 
  • A compiler is merely a computer program. It is not capable of debugging or fixing the errors found within the program. 
  • In case there is a mistake, it becomes important for users to make the necessary changes in the program’s syntax at the earliest- else, it will fail to compile. 
  • The Analysis Phase of the compiler checks grammar, syntax and semantics of the code, post which the intermediate code can be generated. This phase includes the semantic analyzer, lexical analyzer and syntax analyzer for its functionality. 
  • The Synthesis Phase is the stage in which the intermediate code is optimized. The target code is also generated in this stage that includes the code generator and code optimizer. 

What is an Interpreter?

An interpreter can be defined as an alternative for implementing programming languages and functions in the same manner as a compiler. It performs parsing, lexing and type checking just as a compiler. It is equipped to process the syntax tree directly. An interpreter can access expressions and also execute statements from the syntax tree.


Role of an Interpreter

  • An interpreter is used for converting the source code during runtime; one line at a time.
  • It completely translates high-level language programs into machine level language understood by the computer.
  • An interpreter allows for the modification and evaluation of programs in the execution stage. 
  • It is capable of analyzing and processing programs in comparatively faster ways. 
  • The interpreter is best used for testing a program quickly during the modification stage and helps in running it efficiently. 

Java Compiler and Interpreter 

Java is a compiled computer programming language. However, instead of compiling directly into the executable machine code, it is first compiled into a binary intermediate form referred to as JVM bytecode. Thereafter, the bytecode is further compiled or interpreted as needed for running the program. As Java is both an interpreted and compiled programming language it is oft-known as the compiler interpreter language. This also explains whether Java uses a compiler or interpreter – it uses both. 


The paras above have well-explained the definition, role and differences between a compiler and interpreter. The explanation of compiler vs interpreter show that they are both designed to perform the same work, however, they tend to be different in their operational procedures. Be it an interpreter in Java or a compiler used for translating Java commands, they have their pros and cons, different time-saving features, application areas, etc.