Declarative vs Procedural Programming - Understanding the Differences

February 16, 2023 in Software Engineering | 4 mins read | Tagged:

When it comes to programming, there are two main paradigms: declarative and procedural. Both paradigms have their own unique approach to problem-solving, and it’s important to understand the differences between the two. In this blog post, we’ll explore what declarative and procedural programming are, their characteristics, and how they differ.

What is Procedural Programming?

Procedural programming is a programming paradigm where a program is composed of a series of instructions that tell the computer what to do step-by-step. The focus of procedural programming is on how to accomplish a task or solve a problem using a specific sequence of instructions. The programmer must have a clear understanding of the program’s flow and how each instruction affects the program’s output.

Procedural programming is best suited for situations where the program must have a specific order of execution, such as when working with low-level hardware or optimizing performance. Examples of procedural programming languages include C, Pascal, and FORTRAN.

What is Declarative Programming?

Declarative programming is a programming paradigm that focuses on describing the desired result or outcome rather than how to achieve it. Instead of specifying the sequence of steps to take, declarative programming involves declaring a set of constraints or rules that define what the program should do. The program then uses these rules to automatically generate the output.

Declarative programming is ideal for situations where the focus is on what needs to be done rather than how it should be done. It’s often used for high-level programming, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and web development. Examples of declarative programming languages include SQL, HTML, and CSS.

What Are the Differences Between Declarative and Procedural Programming?

One of the key differences between declarative and procedural programming is the level of abstraction. Procedural programming focuses on the specific steps required to accomplish a task, while declarative programming abstracts away the details of how the task is accomplished.

Another difference is in the order of execution. Procedural programming requires a specific order of execution, while declarative programming can generate the output in any order.

Additionally, declarative programming tends to be more concise and easier to read than procedural programming. Declarative programs are often shorter and more self-explanatory because they focus on the end result rather than the process.

Finally, declarative programming is often more modular and easier to maintain than procedural programming. Because declarative programs focus on what needs to be done rather than how to do it, they can be broken down into smaller, more manageable parts that are easier to maintain and update.


Declarative Programming:

  1. SQL - Structured Query Language is a declarative language used to interact with relational databases. In SQL, you describe the data that you want to retrieve using statements like “SELECT,” “FROM,” and “WHERE,” rather than specifying how the data should be retrieved.

  2. HTML - HyperText Markup Language is a declarative language used to create web pages. In HTML, you describe the structure and content of a page using tags, such as “h1” for headings, “p” for paragraphs, and “img” for images.

  3. CSS - Cascading Style Sheets is a declarative language used to define the presentation of HTML documents. In CSS, you describe the style and layout of a web page using properties like “font-size,” “background-color,” and “margin.”

Procedural Programming:

  1. C - C is a procedural programming language commonly used for low-level programming and systems programming. In C, you write a series of instructions that are executed in a specific order to accomplish a task, such as “if” statements, “for” loops, and “while” loops.

  2. Pascal - Pascal is a procedural programming language that was originally designed for teaching programming concepts. In Pascal, you write a sequence of instructions to accomplish a task, using constructs like “if-then-else” statements, “while” loops, and “case” statements.

  3. FORTRAN - FORTRAN is a procedural programming language commonly used for scientific and engineering applications. In FORTRAN, you write a sequence of instructions to perform mathematical operations, using constructs like “do” loops and “if” statements.


Declarative and procedural programming are two different paradigms with their own strengths and weaknesses. While procedural programming is ideal for low-level programming and optimizing performance, declarative programming is ideal for high-level programming and focusing on what needs to be done. Understanding the differences between the two can help you choose the right programming paradigm for your next project.

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