I've heard usages like "operate a programing language" from another non-native English speaker. And it sounds odd to me, especially for the verb "operate" here. Even though it's grammatically correct and I pretty much knew he meant "use" by "operate".

I wondering whether native speaker would find this usage correct or accurate enough. And if not, would there be a better alternative than "use" for "operate".


  • 1
    I've never heard it. Normally you "program in a programming language" or even "write in a programming language" (more commonly something like, "I wrote that in Haskell"). Google responds 'No results found for +"operate a programming language"', which oddly enough should have caught this question.
    – jimm101
    Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 3:38
  • "Operate" doesn't make sense in connection with programming languages, though it is clear what that person meant by it. "Use" in okay: "Have you used Haskell?" or "I'll use C++ for this application."
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 6:29
  • You could operate a computer (a very common usage) and in a less common usage might operate a compiler or IDE or other piece of software (an operator is a common term for someone who uses a computer for basic, low-level work such as data entry). But generally operate is used for physically interacting with tangible things like computers, not abstract things like languages.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 14:37
  • You are on the wrong site. Try English Language Learners.
    – David
    Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 23:22

1 Answer 1


As a native English speaker I would find it strange if someone used this wording.

I am also a programmer, I would say I can write in a particular language.

In a sentence I would say it like this: "I can write in several programming languages."

Its akin to saying I can write in German or French.

  • Write, code, and use. Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 10:34

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