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Is Sql a Programming Language: Detailed Guide (April) 2023

SQL is an influential instrument that facilitates communication with database management systems. By scripting SQL queries, you deliver directives to the computer to execute these actions. This functionality appears similar to programming. However, unlike Python or Java, you cannot construct applications entirely based on SQL. This raises the question: Is SQL a programming language?

In essence, SQL is a domain-specific language (DSL) specifically designed for handling relational databases. Its primary role is to retrieve and manipulate data from these databases. While SQL shares some features with programming languages, it does not provide the full range of functionalities that programming languages like Python or Java offer.

In contrast to programming languages, SQL doesn’t offer an extensive library of data structures, algorithms, and functions. Also, SQL’s syntax focuses on database manipulation and management rather than general-purpose programming. Nonetheless, SQL can still be an essential skill for programmers, data analysts, and data scientists to communicate and interact with relational databases.

What Is SQL?

Structured Query Language (SQL) is a standardized programming vernacular employed to regulate relational databases. It’s primarily devised to enable users to access and govern the stored database information. As a declarative language, SQL prescribes what actions to perform rather than how to execute them.

SQL comprises various components, including the Data Definition Language (DDL), Data Manipulation Language (DML), Data Control Language (DCL), and Transaction Control Language (TCL). Each of these components is tailor-made to serve a specific function in the administration of the database information.

What is a Programming Language?

A programming language is essentially a collection of predetermined terms and rules of grammar that can be utilized to instruct a computer or other computing devices to carry out specific tasks. There are numerous programming languages available, each with its unique features and functions. However, programming languages are broadly categorized into two groups: high-level and low-level programming languages.

Low-level programming languages are closer to machine code or binary code comprising 1s and 0s. These languages are challenging for humans to read since they are structured to write instructions the way a machine thinks. However, low-level languages are comparatively easier to comprehend than pure 1s and 0s. Low-level languages are preferred by programmers who require a higher level of precision and greater control over how computer hardware operates since they can achieve faster performance.

As compared to low-level programming languages, high-level programming languages are closer to how humans communicate, and use terms more like the language we speak every day. This similarity makes them easier to program and maintain. The disadvantage of high-level languages is that they take longer to convert into machine code for the computer to understand.

The performance gap between low-level and high-level programming languages, however, typically only lasts a few milliseconds as computers get more powerful. That is why most programming jobs nowadays require candidates to possess high-level programming skills.

So is SQL a Programming Language?

Turing completeness is a measure of a programming language’s capability, indicating its power to perform complex calculations. The more powerful a language, the more intricate calculations it can undertake. SQL has become more potent and Turing-complete because of common table expressions (CTEs) and Window functions, which allow for recursive and hierarchical calculations.

However, the characteristics of hierarchical and recursive queries were only added to the SQL Standard very recently, so some older traditional RDBMS may not satisfy the Turing completeness criterion.

As we discussed earlier, there is a distinction between a general-purpose programming language and a domain-specific programming language. When individuals refer to “programming language,” they usually mean “general-purpose programming language,” which can be misleading at times.

Therefore, SQL is a domain-specific programming language that is Turing complete according to the proper definition of a programming language. As a result, SQL qualifies as a programming language.

For those who have a basic understanding of SQL and would like to explore further and delve into window functions, DataCamp’s interactive course on PostgreSQL Summary Stats and Window Functions is highly recommended. SQL’s secret weapon is its window functions, which are used for analytics and data engineering.

The Basics of SQL Programming Language

Creating a Database

To begin programming in SQL, the initial step is to establish a database. Crafting a database is a relatively uncomplicated process with a clear and simple syntax.

Is Sql a Programming Language: Detailed Guide (April) 2023

Creating a Table

After successfully creating a database, the subsequent task is to craft a table inside it. In simple terms, a table refers to a well-structured set of data, systematically arranged in rows and columns. To create a table, you need to understand the appropriate syntax, which involves the following:

Is Sql a Programming Language

Inserting Data into a Table

To input data into a table, you can make use of the INSERT INTO statement. The syntax for this statement is structured as follows:

Is Sql a Programming Language: Detailed Guide (April) 2023

Querying Data from a Table

When it comes to obtaining information from a table, the most commonly used statement is SELECT. Its syntax is simple and straightforward, as shown below:

Is Sql a Programming Language

Updating Data in a Table

To modify data in a table, you need to use the UPDATE statement. Its syntax is as follows:

Is Sql a Programming Language

Deleting Data from a Table

To remove data from a table, you can use the DELETE statement. Its syntax is as follows:

Is Sql a Programming Language

Advanced SQL Programming

SQL programming provides numerous sophisticated functionalities that enable users to carry out intricate database operations. Among these capabilities are:


Joins in SQL programming enable users to merge data from multiple tables based on a shared column. There are four distinct types of joins that can be used for this purpose, including INNER JOIN, LEFT JOIN, RIGHT JOIN, and FULL OUTER JOIN.


Users can nest inquiries inside other queries using subqueries. Complex queries that need information from various tables can benefit from this functionality.


The ‘Views’ feature empowers users to form virtual tables according to the outcome of a query. It proves to be a valuable tool in streamlining intricate queries, enabling users to retrieve data without the need for composing protracted SQL statements. By creating a view, users can abstract away the intricacies of the underlying database schema, making the data retrieval process more efficient and user-friendly. In essence, views function as a lens through which users can view the most pertinent data from the database. With this feature, users can save time and effort by avoiding the tedious task of writing and executing convoluted queries.

The Different Types of SQL

You may have come across different types or dialects of SQL, such as T-SQL, PostgreSQL, MySQL, and more. But you might be wondering what these different types of SQL are and why they exist. Let’s take a brief look at the history of SQL.

In 1970, Edgar Frank Codd, a British computer scientist working at IBM, published a paper titled “A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks.” This is when he introduced the relational model for database management, which has been the theoretical basis for relational databases and relational database management systems ever since.

Subsequently, efforts were made in the late 1980s to create an official SQL standard. In 1986, SQL was made an ANSI standard, and in 1987, it was made an ISO standard by the International Organization for Standardization. The SQL standard has undergone numerous updates since the 1980s, but its fundamental components haven’t changed much since 1992.

However, new variations continued to emerge as database implementers working at different companies needed to solve new problems or address already existing problems that were not addressed in the SQL standard. This is why multiple SQL dialects appeared and still co-exist today.

There is only one SQL language today, but different Database Management Systems have extended the original SQL standard to add their own functionalities or adapt the syntax to their own way of functioning. By doing so, they have given birth to a variety of SQL dialects.

General-purpose vs domain-specific

Some critics of SQL argue that its limited scope of use makes it unsuitable to be considered a programming language. However, this overlooks the fact that there are two broad categories of programming languages: general-purpose and domain-specific.

General-purpose languages are versatile and can be used to write a wide variety of software, such as C++, Java, JavaScript, Python, Ruby, and C#. In contrast, domain-specific languages are designed to perform specific tasks within a particular domain or application. SQL is a query language that is tailored for managing databases, while HTML is a markup language that is best suited for use in web browsers. Both SQL and HTML excel at their respective tasks.

Those who argue that SQL should not be considered a programming language due to its narrow focus miss the point. SQL is not intended to be a general-purpose programming language.

Instead, it is specifically designed to communicate with relational databases, and it performs this task exceptionally well. While SQL cannot be used to create a UI frontend or build an API, this is by design, as its purpose is to excel at managing databases.

No Loops

There is a debate over whether SQL qualifies as a programming language due to its inability to perform loops or decision logic in its original form. This argument is indeed valid, but it has been mostly resolved by the introduction of SQL-based languages such as PostgreSQL and MySQL. These languages enable the creation of loops and implementation of logic within the SQL framework.

Others may contend that these SQL-based languages are not simply dialects of SQL but independent programming languages in their own right. Regardless of the perspective, they remain compliant with SQL standards while providing extra functionality.

If you are in favor of expanding SQL’s capabilities to encompass loops and decision logic, you can do so through PostgreSQL or MySQL. With these SQL-based languages, you can fully harness the power of SQL, and perhaps even surpass its traditional boundaries.

Turing Complete

In the realm of technology, individuals often categorize a programming language according to its status as Turing complete or not. A programming language is considered Turing complete if it has the ability to emulate any Turing machine and determine additional data manipulation regulations. This classification is derived from the computer science research conducted by Alan Turing.

With the integration of recursive queries, SQL is recognized as a Turing complete programming language. This serves as further evidence that SQL can be considered a legitimate programming language.

Is SQL a programming language or a database?

SQL is not a database, but rather a language used to communicate with databases. It acts as a key that unlocks the valuable information stored within the database. Devoid of SQL and comparable languages, it would be impossible to obtain the required data from databases.

Several implementations of SQL exist as a programming language. One of these is Transact-SQL, which is utilized by Microsoft SQL Server. Additionally, there are PostgreSQL, Oracle SQL, and MySQL. While some of these implementations are open-source, such as MySQL, others require commercial licenses and can only be used in specific programs like Oracle SQL.

Although all versions of SQL allow for database interaction, the extent of customizability may vary between different implementations.

Is SQL a programming language true or false?

Ture SQL(Structured Query language) is a programming language designed for managing and manipulating relational database Databases can be created, modified, and queried using Sql. It is commonly used in data analysis and management.


In conclusion, SQL is a domain-specific language designed to manage relational databases, primarily used for retrieving and manipulating data. Although SQL shares some similarities with programming languages, it lacks the full range of functionalities of general-purpose programming languages like Python or Java. However, SQL is Turing-complete with the addition of common table expressions and window functions. As a domain-specific language, SQL is considered a programming language that qualifies the definition of Turing completeness. SQL can be an essential skill for programmers, data analysts, and data scientists to communicate and interact with relational databases. SQL provides basic functionalities such as creating a database, table, inserting data, querying data, updating data, and deleting data. Advanced SQL programming provides more sophisticated functionalities such as complex queries, data analytics, and data engineering.


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Zain Qureshi

Greetings! My name is Zain Qureshi, and I work as a dedicated SEO editor and writer at ZeeSeekers. During my leisure time, I indulge in gaming and movie-watching to keep myself occupied.

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