What Are Procedural Languages?

Procedural languages are a form of computer programming language that list instructions step by step in the same order that the computer must carry them out. Examples of procedural languages are C and Fortran.

Computer programmers construct languages that allow them to write instructions that a machine can understand, translate and execute. Each programming language has a specialized purpose and programmers use procedural languages to write sets of instructions that proceed from one step to the next in a given order, according to the University of Colorado Boulder. These instructions inform a computer of what it must do, so the computer takes the instructions and processes them through its internal language, or machine code, which also happens to be procedural.

Programs written using procedural languages, such as Basic, C, C++ and Fortran, comprise a main program block that starts the step-by-step list of instructions. There may also be subroutines and functions that make it easy to split a long list of instructions into subsets. In general, procedural languages are best suited to smaller projects.

As both the programming language and the computer's language are both procedural, this form of programming is efficient and straightforward. This makes procedural languages one of the traditional types learned first by students due to the natural way that the languages communicate their instructions in a list.