Python vs PHP – What are the Similarities & Differences?

Python and PHP. Two of the most popular programming languages ever created. But which one is the one you should choose for your projects? Is any of the 2 better than the other? If yes, in what regards? In this article we’ll answer these questions, and also give you some of the advantages / disadvantages for using both Python and PHP. But before that, let’s give both of them a brief introduction.

I’ll start with Python. The language was first released in the 1980s by Guido van Rossum, the creator of Python himself. Over the years it gained in popularity, nowadays being one of the most frequently used programming languages ever to be made. You can use Python for pretty much any project that you’re working on: web applications, desktop software, automations, website design and other things as well.

PHP stands for Hypertext Preprocessor. It was created by Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994. PHP is used as a server-side language for web development. Differently from JavaScript which takes care in most cases by the front-end of web development (what the user sees), PHP works on the back-end, with other words it runs on the server, not on the user’s computer.

Are there any similarities between the 2 languages? At first glance it may seem like not, since they were created for different purposes. But let’s take a closer look!

Similarities Between Python and PHP

1. Both of the languages are fairly simple to grasp and master

This is very important when you want to learn a new language. After all, it’s not really worth it, if all you do is spend your time getting to know the basics. Python was created with simplicity in mind, as was PHP.

For example, a code that’s written using Python is much shorter than the same code written in another language. There are times when it’s 4/5 times shorter. PHP is also great in this area. You can write complicated tasks with very few lines of actual code.

Something interesting about Python, is the fact that it comes with a built-in rule set that lets you know when something isn’t right. For instance, it lets you know when you have to start a new line of code by itself.

This is great because you can keep your code clean without even being a fully-fledged professional. And if another programmer will look at your work, he’ll be able to understand it very easily even if he didn’t before saw that code.

2. Documentation

Yes, both PHP and Python come with a detailed documentation that can help you out when you reach an impasse. You just need to take a look in the documentation for the specific language, and it’s quite sure you’ll find your solution to the problem.

3. Both languages have custom made IDEs for all the major operating systems

When you reach a higher level with any of the 2, you can anytime download and install an IDE, that will help you be even more productive.

4. Many added features. Both languages are open-source

What does this mean? Basically, what this tells you, is that you can access the source code for both PHP and Python, thus giving you many possibilities for adding new options. You can tweak the language and improve it further to help other developers and yourself get the most out of using it.

Being open-source, also comes with this bonus: a big community. Python and PHP both have a great community of users behind them. This can be of great help to you, no matter which language you choose in the future. Why? I mentioned that if you come across a certain issue while coding, you can look in the documentation to find a solution.

But what if there’s no answer in there? In this case, you should take a look in the community forums. This is an efficient method to find an answer, because there is a big chance that another programmer has already dealt with your same case. You just have to find it and the solution will be there for you to implement it in your project as well.

Differences Between Python and PHP

Now that we talked about the similarities between the 2 languages, are there any differences? Of course. Below you have some of them listed:

  • Python is much more flexible compared to PHP. I mentioned at the beginning of the article what are both languages used for. You can clearly see that Python can do a lot of things when compared to what PHP is good for. PHP was created to be used specifically in web development at the back-end side, while Python can be used for the front-end and much more then only that area.
  • This is a big difference when we compare the 2 languages. Python based software is considered to be among the safest and most secure out there. But PHP is not. PHP code needs additional tools to ensure its security.
  • To support web applications that are already built, PHP is better. It was developed to support websites from the start, so if you need a language that does that efficiently, PHP is a good candidate.
  • Both technologies being quite old (in a good way), have stacked up a lot of code that was arranged into libraries. The difference here is that Python uses special packages to load them, while PHP can load them only by doing it manually.

From this point, we’ll take a short look at the development logic behind Python and PHP. This way you’ll know better which language goes best with your needs.

The first thing that we should clarify is the 2 languages orientation. Python is aspect-oriented. This means that Python separates the program functionality and the program is split into several modules. PHP is different here, it’s an object-oriented language. The difference here from Python is that PHP separates code modules that contain functions and other data into objects.

How does this work? Python works on this idea: the programmer will create separate modules with functions, then these will be registered on the ‘’if-then’’ basis (if something is true/false, then the following thing happens). An algorithm will be the result which will be executed taking into consideration the user’s actions.

PHP works a bit differently. The programmer will create a whole code object with specific properties. These will also be executed depending on the user’s input.

The next aspect we should cover is the syntax for both the languages. What is the syntax? To understand this idea better, just imagine a regular spoken language. Every language has its grammatical rules and differences from another language. For example, the sentence “My house is big” can sound a lot different in another language. There could even be added new punctuation marks, when the original language has none of that.

Now, think about a programming language. The same is true here as with a regular spoken language, like I mentioned just now. A programming language also has many different “grammatical” rules that must be applied for the code to make any sense. If you disregard even one of them, the program won’t run, or it will be executed in a faulty manner which will lead to an error or even more of them.

The PHP syntax and Python syntax is similar in one specific way: it’s simple. We already talked about the fact that both the languages are simple to grasp and can easily be learned by new developers. This is where the syntax comes into the picture. There are certain programming languages that consist of very convoluted syntaxes. These are very complicated and hard to learn. But Python and PHP are totally different. Both of them have simple syntaxes that you can understand on even first or second time use.

Now, let’s see what are the differences between the syntax of Python and the syntax of PHP. PHP has a syntax that is very similar to the one from C. This is due to the origin of the language. Curly braces, additional characters and operators, punctuation marks and other C elements are being used to make the language work. White spaces are neglected in PHP, which gives the user the ability to structure the code in a better way, by having it split up into more logical components.

Python is different when we talk about syntax. As I already mentioned, Python code can be executed even if there are errors in the code. The code is being separated using spaces and tabs, which is more efficient but it’s easier to make new errors along the way. All the commands though are very simple to learn. This is due to the fact that Python’s language is very similar to the English language itself. Many commands in Python have the same meaning like in English.

Now that you know what are the differences and similarities between these 2 languages, let’s recap what we talked about up until this point:

  1. At the beginning we had a brief intro to what Python and PHP are and what they are used for.
    1. Python has a big number of capabilities
    2. PHP was created to manage the server side of web apps
  2. After that, we talked about the similarities between the two:
    1. Both of them are easy to learn by even new programmers. Huge plus on both sides.
    2. Both of them use a detailed documentation that is very helpful when you stumble upon a problem or you’re just simply learning the language.
    3. PHP and Python both have dedicated IDEs created to make your life easier when you get better at using the languages.
    4. The most important similarity we mentioned is the fact that both the 2 are open-source languages. This by itself is a great pro for both of them.
    5. The last similarity is that PHP and Python come with active communities backing them up. They can be of great help even if you’re already a professional developer in either languages.
  3. Next thing we did, was to name a few of the differences:
    1. Python is much more versatile because PHP was solely developed for servers-side web applications. With Python you can take care of many tasks that PHP isn’t good at.
    2. The security was another difference between the 2, Python being more secure by itself, and PHP needing additional tools to make it safe.
    3. An important aspect we mentioned is the huge database of libraries created over the years that are helpful when creating a new app or managing the servers.
  4. The logic behind the 2 programming languages is also different as I mentioned before.
  5. Something important that you need to master, is the syntax for the new language.

Before concluding the article, there’s one more thing we should talk about briefly. The future of both of the 2 languages. Why is this important. Well, it’s quite obvious. Do you want to put precious time into learning something that will ultimately become obsolete? Of course not. Who wants something like that?

That is why it’s important to think about this as well. So, how does PHP and Python look in this territory? Python is one of the most popular languages, being used by even the most influential companies around the globe (Google, Snapchat, Instagram, even NASA). The future looks bright for Python. So, if you choose this language to develop your projects, you won’t fail.

PHP is also widely used along the whole of the internet. Many big sites are using it to take care of server requests and other back-end tasks. It powers so much part of the internet that it isn’t too likely it will suddenly just go away.


So, in the end which one is the best to use? The answer depends on your own situation. This article gave you a quick overview of both the languages, so you should have a pretty clear idea on what they can do. Now it’s up to you to decide on the winner.

But to not make a wrong choice think well about your specific domain of programming. After all, you need a language that can take care of your projects: Python can do it pretty much all, but PHP is the best for server-side programming.

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