Is SQL a Programming Language? The simple answer to this question will be ‘YES’, it can be considered as a Programming Language !

And, it is not a shot in the dark… We will be discussing this on the basis of few facts and terms, then you can decide the answer on your own! But for that, we first need to know exactly what is a programming language?

A programming language is a well-formed set of rules or instructions, used to teach computers or any computing device(any electronic device that takes inputs, processes them to give outputs) to perform certain operations and get the desired output.

A programming language is just a language designed with the intent for communicating with the computers so that, a specific task can be performed.

There are various programming languages developed so far, designed on the basis of various needs. Each programming language has its own merits and reasons for not using one, but that too is dependable on the requirements and feasibility at that point of time. 

Here, are some types of programming languages, which I think will catch your attention!

Figure: Various Types of Programming Languages

As we can see, in the figure above, since we are talking about a High level Language, Imperative and Declarative programming languages are similar like siblings. So, not exactly the same, though come under the same umbrella.

The language about which we are discussing here is SQL, which is the short for Structured Query Language. So, WHAT IS SQL? Is SQL a Programming Language?

WHAT IS SQL? Is SQL a Programming Language?

Structured Query Language(SQL), also read as “sequel” or sometimes in its abbreviation form also, is a Declarative Language, which means that it tells the computer ‘what’ to do, unlike, ‘how’ to do as in the case of Imperative Programming Languages like C, Fortran, C++, Java, Python, etc. SQL is also a Domain Specific Language(DSL).

A DSL is a type of computer language which is specially designed for a specific type of domain or scope.

These are contradictory to the General Purpose Languages(GPL), which are modeled to be used throughout various domains.

The purpose of this language is to make humans interact with the database stored in the computer or at any server, here, we are talking about immeasurable massive amounts of data in its various forms.

This data is stored in databases (cluster of information stored in a system for easy access and management) and to access or require this data from the databases, SQL is used, whenever needed.

As the name suggests, SQL is a Query Language meaning that it uses certain types of queries as commands which tells the computer what data to acquire from the databases, (not explaining how to perform it).

These queries are written in English language which makes it very easy and comfortable to learn, understand and execute. SQL is used to create as well as modify the data in numerous ways

It is mainly used for the Relational Databases, those databases which store data in a proper structured form i.e., in the form of tables, consisting of rows and columns.

A relational type of model defines a set of relationships between the given entities (real-time objects).

It helps to evaluate the flow of interactions between them and presents the database in a more detailed, yet structured way.

There is no redundancy in the Relational Database Management System(RDBMS), a software application to manage the relational databases, for example, SQLite, MS SQL (both use SQL) and many more.

Since, SQL deals/accesses the data and databases, it is a Data-oriented or Database Programming Language, whereas, the other languages like C, C++, Java, are used to create the database, also called Procedural Programming Language .

SQL is a Fourth Generation Language(4GL), which means a non-procedural language that is very easy to learn and implement, designed as an advancement of the 3GLS like C, C++, Java, Ruby, Perl, Python, etc.. 4GLs are considered to be more close to humans because of the understandable and versatile nature.

Now, you might wonder Why to consider SQL a programming language?

Accepting these certain differences between the languages stated before, we must not forget the basic definition of a programming language which we already discussed.

Also, SQL too supports looping, declaring variables and business logic like the procedural languages.

SQL is similar to them in the respect of Turing Completeness, also. It is that quality of a programming language which makes it capable of accomplishing all the problems that a computer can obtain.

So, to sum-up, SQL can be considered as a programming language based on the above facts but we can not deny that it is a programming language with a different motive and requirements, from those of the other procedural languages.

Now, if you have understood what SQL is and have no doubts on this debate, let us move further to dive into SQL a little deeper and discuss more topics related to SQL.

These topics are:

  1. Why to use SQL?
  2. From where to learn SQL?
  3. How to use SQL?
  4. Advantages and Disadvantages of SQL.
  5. Future of SQL.

1. Why to use SQL?

Here are some points based on which you should opt to use SQL for accessing your data:-

i. Accessing data becomes very easy because of the simplicity. 

ii. Management, compilation, operation on the data in much lesser time.

iii. Dealing with enormous amount of data. 

iv. Data retrieval is done faster. 

v. Many functions can be performed on RDBMS. 

vi. Blends well with other languages like Python. 

vii. It is a standardized language, so, not many changes are done frequently. 

viii. Provides the feasibility to have in-depth knowledge of the database. 

ix. Manipulation of data at any instant of time. 

x. Combining of multiple databases can be done using SQL. 

xi. Simple user interface for error handling.

xii. Learning SQL does not need programming background. 

xiii.Increasing need of SQL programmers or developers. 

xiv. Easily portable through various systems like PCs, laptops, servers, mainframe, or even some smart-phones also.

2. From where to learn SQL?

As, stated earlier, learning SQL does not need any programming background, so, with a little guidance anyone willing to learn SQL can do that.

It completely depends on the person to choose any means to learn SQL, there are plenty of options out there which can give you best experience in understanding SQL completely.

You can learn it by using a book (on/off-line mode) or other different online platforms.

So, here are some Top Books available for FREE from where you can learn SQL

i. “Learning SQL” by Alan Beaulieu. 

ii. “Head First SQL” by Lynn Beighley

iii. Also, you can learn from the e-book:- “SQL Notes for Professionals”. You can download the book from – SQL BOOK

You can also take advantages from some online FREE courses available for learning SQL :-

iv. From Coursera :- Introduction to Sql

v. From Codecademy:- Learn Sql 

vi. Still not satisfied from these options… Do not worry!

For a detailed view of learning any coding language ON A BUDGET, click on this link -> How to Learn to Code on a Budget

3. How to use SQL?

Real life example of the concept of SQL can be explained using the following example.

If we go to a large library, filled with millions of books or reading material, in need of any book to read or something else, it may be anything, we go straight to the librarian for the same as we shall not know where will be the specific book we need.

There are so many books and finding the one is very hard to even think of. So, we will ask the librarian to tell us what exactly will be the location of the book. 

Thinking of the racks in the library used to keep the books as the ‘tables’ used in the database having rows and columns and the library as the ‘database’, we can have the book(our required data) from the specific shelf of that particular rack.

Similarly, SQL helps to access our data as it displays all the required data in the form of a table, in which the data is stored in rows ad column, depending upon the relations between the entities of that table.

SQL uses different types of commands/queries to perform operations on the database.

Types of Different Commands Used in SQL:-

i. Data Definition Language(DDL):-

  • Used for dealing with the structure of the table.
  • Changes are saved automatically after performing the DDL commands. 

Some DDL commands are: Create, Alter, Drop, Truncate.

ii. Data Manipulation Language(DML):-

  • Used to manipulate or change the contents of the database.
  • Do not save automatically.
  • Used to make any form of changes to the database (not its structure but the contents). 

Some examples are: Insert, Update, Delete.

iii. Data Control Language:-

  • Used to authorize any database user, simply to give and take controls from the user.
  • Used for applying restrictions, if needed. 

Some commands are: Grant, Revoke. 

iv. Transaction Control Language:-

  • Utilized to handle the transactions occurring in the database.
  • Only used with DML commands to manage the changes made to the database.
  • Helpful in grouping the statements into logical transactions.

Some commands are: Rollback, Commit, Savepoint

4. Advantages and Disadvantages of SQL:-


i. Manages and stores enormous amounts of data. 

ii. Access data in a simpler and much faster way. 

iii. Helpful in giving in-depth understanding and view of the database. 

iv. Easy data portability through different systems. 

v. Can provide different views of the same database for different users. 

vi. Well-formed standards. 

vii. Easier to learn and understand.

viii. No programming background required.


1. Some versions have high operating costs.

2. Gives partial control to users for accessing database due to some business rules.

3. Difficult to deal with due to the complicated user interface.

5. Future of SQL:-

As, data is increasing day-by-day, with this, the increase of the need of managing and storing this uncountable amounts of data is also simultaneously increasing, hence, the need of SQL also emerges. 

Big Data and Data Analytics are booming, and so is the tool which handles the data used in these fields, as to retain and manage this continuous growing data in just few seconds is the actual want! The market out there is great and demanding for those who love to use SQL. 

Already, there are new versions of SQL launched and maybe there will be more coming which shows future of SQL seems BRIGHT in the coming years.

Conclusion (Is SQL a Programming Language ?)

  • Here we discussed everything about the SQL and Is SQL a Programming Language ? Hope you liked this article on the (Is SQL a Programming Language ?).
  • So, GO and GRAB the opportunity of learning SQL and make the most out of it.
  • We will be back with another great article that would prove an add to your technical knowledge.

Thanks for reading…!

Ritika Bharat
Chief Editor & Technical Content Writer at BrainyWit

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