HomeDifferenceDifference between Class and Structure

Difference between Class and Structure

In object-oriented programming, classes and structures are two fundamental constructs used for organizing and modeling data. They provide a way to define blueprints for objects and group related data. While both classes and structures serve similar purposes, there are significant differences between them. In this tutorial, you will get a clear picture about what is a Class and Structure, role of Classes and Structure in programming, their features, characteristics, their uses and finally look what are the difference between class and structure.

What is a Class in object-oriented programming?

A class is a blueprint or template that defines the properties, behaviors, and relationships of objects. It encapsulates data and methods into a single unit and serves as a blueprint for creating instances or objects. In object-oriented programming languages such as Java or C++, classes are used extensively to create objects that interact with each other.

Role of classes in defining blueprints for objects

Classes play a crucial role in defining the blueprint or prototype for objects. They encapsulate the common attributes and behaviors that objects of the same type will possess. By defining classes, programmers can create multiple instances of the same class, each with its own unique state and behavior.

Examples of class declaration and instantiation

Let’s consider an example of a class called “Car.” The class may have attributes such as “brand,” “model,” and “color,” as well as methods like “startEngine” and “accelerate.” To create an instance of the Car class, we would use a process called instantiation, which involves creating an object based on the class blueprint.

Features of classes

Classes have several features that make them a powerful construct in object-oriented programming. These features include inheritance, encapsulation, and polymorphism. Inheritance allows classes to inherit properties and behaviors from other classes, while encapsulation ensures that the internal workings of a class are hidden from external entities. Polymorphism enables objects of different classes to be treated as objects of a common superclass.

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Characteristics of classes

Classes possess characteristics such as abstraction, modularity, and reusability. Abstraction allows the programmer to focus on the essential features of an object and ignore irrelevant details. Modularity enables the development of large-scale applications by dividing the system into smaller, manageable units. Reusability allows classes to be reused in different parts of a program or in other programs altogether.

Uses of Classes

Classes are widely used in software development for creating reusable and maintainable code. They provide a structured way to represent real-world entities and enable efficient code organization. Classes also facilitate code reusability and modularity, making it easier to maintain and extend software systems.

What is a Structure in programming?

In programming, a structure is a composite data type that groups together related data elements. Unlike classes, structures do not typically contain methods or behaviors. Instead, they are primarily used for grouping and organizing data in a convenient manner. Structures are commonly used in languages like C and C++.

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Role of structures in grouping related data

The primary role of structures is to group related data elements under a single construct. This allows the programmer to treat the group of data as a single unit, making it easier to manipulate and pass around in the program. Structures are particularly useful when dealing with complex data structures or when there is a need to represent a collection of related variables.

Examples of structure declaration and initialization

Suppose we want to represent a point in a two-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system. We can use a structure called “Point” to group the x and y coordinates together. The declaration of the structure might look like this:

struct Point {
  int x;
  int y;

To initialize a structure variable, we can do the following:

struct Point p1;
p1.x = 10;
p1.y = 20;

Features of Structures

Structures have a few key features that differentiate them from classes. Unlike classes, structures do not support inheritance or encapsulation. They are typically used for organizing simple data elements and do not contain complex behaviors or methods. Structures also have a default access modifier, where all members are public by default.

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Characteristics of Structures

Structures possess characteristics such as pass-by-value, stack allocation, and value semantics. When structures are passed as parameters to functions or assigned to other variables, a copy of the structure is made. This is different from classes, where objects are typically passed by reference. Structures are commonly allocated on the stack rather than the heap, which can impact their lifetime and scope. Additionally, structures exhibit value semantics, meaning that assigning one structure variable to another creates a copy of the data.

Uses of Structures

Structures find applications in various programming scenarios. They are particularly useful when dealing with data that has a simple and fixed set of attributes. Structures are commonly used in data serialization, file handling, and low-level programming tasks. They provide a convenient way to group related data elements without the need for complex behaviors or inheritance.

Difference between Class and Structure

Class Structure
Classes support inheritance, allowing for the creation of hierarchical relationships between classes. This means that a class can inherit properties and behaviors from another class, enabling code reuse and creating more specialized classes. Structures do not support inheritance. They are primarily used for grouping related data elements and do not have the concept of inheritance.
In classes, members are typically private by default, meaning they can only be accessed within the class itself. If a member needs to be accessed from outside the class, it requires explicit access modifiers such as public or protected. All members of a structure are public by default. This means that the data elements within a structure can be accessed directly from outside the structure without the need for explicit access modifiers.
Classes are more complex than structures and support the inclusion of methods or behaviors along with data. They encapsulate both data and behaviors into a single unit. This allows for modeling real-world entities and defining the actions or operations that can be performed on objects of that class. Structures are primarily used for organizing and grouping data elements. They do not typically contain methods or behaviors but focus solely on storing related data in a convenient manner.
Memory allocation differs between classes and structures. Instances of classes are typically allocated on the heap, and their lifetime is managed using dynamic memory allocation and deallocation. This allows for greater flexibility in creating and destroying objects. Structures are usually allocated on the stack. Stack allocation is faster and more straightforward than dynamic memory allocation but comes with limitations on the size and lifetime of structures.
Classes are widely used in object-oriented programming for modeling real-world entities, creating reusable code, and implementing complex systems. They provide a structured way to represent objects and their behaviors, allowing for code organization and maintenance. Structures are commonly used in procedural programming and low-level programming tasks. They are suitable for grouping simple data elements and are often used for tasks such as data serialization, file handling, and managing related variables.

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Classes and structures are essential constructs in object-oriented and procedural programming, respectively. While classes provide a blueprint for objects and support complex behaviors, structures are used for grouping related data elements. Understanding the differences between classes and structures is crucial for selecting the appropriate construct based on the requirements of the programming task at hand. By leveraging the strengths of both classes and structures, programmers can design efficient and maintainable software systems.


  1. Can classes have methods?

    Yes, classes can have methods in object-oriented programming. Methods define the behaviors and actions associated with objects created from a class.

  2. Can structures inherit from other structures?

    No, structures do not support inheritance. Inheritance is a feature provided by classes to create hierarchical relationships and derive new classes from existing ones.

  3. Are structures only used in low-level programming?

    No, structures have various applications beyond low-level programming. They are commonly used for organizing simple data elements and can be found in data serialization, file handling, and other programming tasks.

  4. Can structures contain other structures as members?

    Yes, structures can contain other structures as members. This allows for creating nested or hierarchical structures to represent more complex data relationships.

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