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In computer science, control flow (or flow of control) is the order in which individual statements, instructions or function calls of an imperative program are executed or evaluated. The emphasis on explicit control flow distinguishes an imperative programming language from a declarative programming language.
Within an imperative programming language, a control flow statement is a statement that results in a choice being made as to which of two or more paths to follow. For non-strict functional languages, functions and language constructs exist to achieve the same result, but they are usually not termed control flow statements.
Interrupts and signals are low-level mechanisms that can alter the flow of control in a way similar to a subroutine, but usually occur as a response to some external stimulus or event (that can occur asynchronously), rather than execution of an in-line control flow statement.
At the level of machine language or assembly language, control flow instructions usually work by altering the program counter. For some central processing units (CPUs), the only control flow instructions available are conditional or unconditional branch instructions, also termed jumps.