How to calculate factorial Using Recursion in C?

How to calculate factorial Using Recursion in C?

Recursion and factorial calculations hold a pivotal place in the realm of programming, especially for those embarking on the journey to master algorithms and data structures. The concept of recursion, when married with the mathematical operation of factorial, not only lays a strong foundation for understanding more complex algorithms but also serves as an excellent example of how problems can be simplified using programming.


The factorial of a number is a fundamental concept in mathematics and computer science. It is used in various areas, including statistics, combinatorics, and algorithm analysis. Recursion, on the other hand, is a programming technique where a function calls itself directly or indirectly, allowing for the solution of problems by breaking them down into more manageable sub-problems. This blog post delves into how the factorial of a number can be calculated using recursion in the C programming language.


To fully grasp the content of this blog post, readers should have a basic understanding of the C programming language, particularly how functions are defined and invoked. A preliminary knowledge of recursion and how it operates within the context of C is also beneficial, though not strictly necessary as it will be covered in the following sections.

Understanding Factorial


Mathematically, the factorial of a non-negative integer (n), denoted by (n!), is the product of all positive integers less than or equal to (n). The factorial of zero, (0!), is defined as 1. This operation is particularly significant in permutations and combinations, where it helps calculate the number of ways in which objects can be arranged or selected.


  • (5! = 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 120)
  • (3! = 3 x 2 x 1 = 6)
  • (0! = 1) (by definition)

What is Recursion?

Simple Explanation

Recursion in programming is akin to a loop that allows a function to call itself with different arguments. It’s a way to solve problems by making a problem smaller and smaller, solving the smallest problem directly, and then combining these solutions to solve the original problem.

Recursion in Problem Solving

Recursion is particularly powerful in problem-solving as it can simplify the code for complex problems by breaking them down into simpler, smaller versions of the same problem. This technique is widely used in sorting algorithms, tree traversals, and solving puzzles like the Tower of Hanoi.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Recursion


  • Simplifies Code: For certain problems, using recursion can make the code more straightforward and easier to understand than iterative solutions.
  • Reduces Time Complexity: In some cases, recursive solutions can reduce the time complexity of algorithms, making them more efficient.
  • Natural Fit for Certain Problems: Problems that inherently involve element inside element structures (like tree traversals) are naturally suited for recursive solutions.


  • Memory Consumption: Recursive calls require additional memory for each call’s execution context, which can lead to higher memory consumption.
  • Risk of Stack Overflow: Deeply nested recursive calls can exhaust the call stack, leading to stack overflow errors.
  • Performance Concerns: Recursive functions may perform poorly compared to their iterative counterparts due to overheads of function calls and returns.

Implementing Factorial Using Recursion in C

Calculating the factorial of a number using recursion in C involves creating a function that calls itself with decremented values until it reaches the base case. Here’s how you can implement it:

1#include <stdio.h>
3// Function to calculate factorial
4long long factorial(int n) {
5 if (n == 0) // Base case
6 return 1;
7 else
8 return n * factorial(n - 1); // Recursive call
11int main() {
12 int number = 5;
13 printf("Factorial of %d is %lld\n", number, factorial(number));
14 return 0;

This code snippet defines a factorial function that calculates the factorial of a given number recursively. The base case of the recursion is when n is 0, at which point the function returns 1. For all other values of n, the function calls itself with n - 1, multiplying the result by n until it reaches the base case.

Running the Program

To compile and run the program in a C environment, you can use the following commands in your terminal or command prompt:

  1. Compile the program: gcc -o factorial factorial.c (assuming your file is named factorial.c).
  2. Run the program: ./factorial.

Here’s an example of what the input and output might look like:

Please enter a number: 5
Factorial of 5 is 120.

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