Difference Between Metals and Non-Metals

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: July 20, 2023


Difference Between Metals and Non-Metals

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Knowing the physical and chemical properties of metals and nonmetals can be difficult if you are not familiar with them. A metal is a solid substance that is usually hard, shiny and opaque. A nonmetal, on the other hand, is a solid or gaseous material that lacks metallic properties. Matter is physical matter that has mass and occupies space. It exists in three forms: elements, compounds and mixtures.

Elements are the purest form of matter and are divided into three types: metals, metalloids and nonmetals. These three elements are divided into two groups according to their physical and chemical properties. Matter is further divided into two categories according to whether it has metallic properties or not.

Metals vs Non-Metals

Elements are classified as metals or nonmetals. Metals (such as copper and aluminium) carry heat and electricity well, whereas nonmetals (such as phosphorus and Sulphur) are insulators. Materials are classified as described above based on their qualities.

Difference Between Metal And Non-Metal In Tabular Form

Basis Of ComparisonMetalNon - Metal
MeaningMetals are naturally occurring elements that are hard, bright, opaque, and dense.Nonmetals are chemical compounds that are soft, dull, transparent, and brittle.
Physical State at room temperatureSolid (except mercury and gallium)Solid or gas (except Bromine)
DensityHigh densityLow density
HardnessExcept for sodium, most metals are hard.Except for diamonds, most nonmetals are soft.
ConductionExcellent heat and electricity conductor.Heat and electricity conductivity is poor.
Melting and Boiling pointThe melting and boiling points are extremely high.The melting and boiling points are both low.
ElectronsIn the outer shell, there are 1 to 3 electrons.In the outer shell, there are 4 to 8 electrons.
OxygenReact with oxygen to produce basic oxides.React with oxygen to produce acidic oxides.
AcidReact with acids to generate hydrogen gas.Usually do not react with acids.

What Is Metal?

Metals are natural elements that are solid, shiny, opaque and have a higher density. Metals have extremely high melting and boiling points. They are excellent conductors of heat and electricity. The atoms of metals are organized in a crystal structure. They function as reducing agents by losing valence electrons and forming cations. Silver, aluminium, gold, lead, nickel, copper, titanium, magnesium, iron, cobalt, zinc, and other metals are examples.

Metals are hard and are extensively employed in the manufacture of machinery, water boilers, agricultural equipment, automobiles, industrial equipment, kitchenware, and aeroplanes, among other things.

Physical Properties Of Metals

  • All metals are excellent conductors of heat and electricity. Metals are used in cooking items and irons because they carry heat well.
  • The capacity of a substance to be stretched into a wire is referred to as ductility. This characteristic enables metals to be pulled into wires, which, when combined with their resilience, find usage as cable wires and for soldering. Metals are said to be ductile because they can be pulled into wires.
  • The feature of substances that permits them to be pounded into flat sheets is known as malleability. Because of their lightweight and strength, aluminium sheets are utilized in the manufacture of aircraft. Other metal sheets are used in the motor industry, to make utensils, and so on. As a result, metals are malleable.
  • Metals are sonorous because when hit with another hard item, they generate a loud or ringing sound.
  • All metals have a shiny appearance by nature, however, some metals can also be cleaned to have a shiny appearance.

Chemical Properties Of Metals

Reaction with water: Only highly reactive metals, not all metals, react with water. Sodium, for example, interacts vigorously with water and oxygen, producing a considerable quantity of heat in the process. This is why sodium is preserved in paraffin to avoid interaction with moisture or oxygen.

Reaction with acids: When metals react with acids, hydrogen gas is created. Zinc, for example, interacts with hydrochloric acid to form zinc chloride and hydrogen gas.

Reaction with bases: Not all metals react with bases, and when they do, metal salts and hydrogen gas are formed. When zinc interacts with strong sodium hydroxide, sodium zincate and hydrogen gas are produced.

Reaction with oxygen: Metal oxides are formed during the combustion of metals in with the presence of oxygen. These metal oxides occur naturally. For example, when a magnesium strip burns in the presence of oxygen, magnesium oxide is formed, and when magnesium oxide dissolves in water, magnesium hydroxide is formed.

Applications Of Metals

  • Metals are shiny, thus they are utilized for decoration in jewellery and arts and crafts.
  • They are utilized in equipment, cars, and refractory materials such as iron, aluminium, and steel.
  • They are commonly utilized in electronics because they are excellent heat and electrical conductors.
  • They are utilized in medicine since our bodies require micro-elements such as iron, cobalt, nickel, nitrogen, phosphorus, and so on.
  • Because metals can combine to produce alloys, they are employed in a variety of industries, including shipping and weapon production.
  • They operate as a catalyst in a variety of organic processes. Nickel, platinum, gold, and so on.
  • Aluminium is used in the production of insulation wire.
  • Metals such as iron and steel are utilized to add strength and durability to building and home projects.
  • The metal mercury is used to make thermometers.
  • Copper is used to make wiring materials because it is a good conductor of electricity.
  • Tungsten is utilized in light bulb filaments because it glows white without melting.
  • Food wrappers made of aluminium foil are used.
  • Iron is used in the manufacture of nails and screws.
  • Zinc is used as a rust-preventative coating for iron.
  • Coins and medals are made from metals such as silver and gold.

What Are Non-Metals?

As the name implies, non-metals are a natural element that lacks metallic qualities. Except for bromine, the only nonmetal that exists in liquid form, they are normally present in solid or gaseous form. They are soft, non-lustrous (except for iodine), and excellent heat and electricity insulators.

For example, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, argon, xenon, chlorine, and so on.

Atoms in nonmetals are arranged in a non-crystalline or amorphous form. Because they gain or share valence electrons to create anions, nonmetals have a high ionization energy and electronegativity. Because they are usually soft, they are used to make fertilizer, water filtration, crackers, and other products.

Characteristics Of Non-Metals

Nonmetals are distinguished by their high ionization energy and electronegativity. Non-metals typically gain electrons when they combine with other molecules, generating covalent bonds.

Nonmetals have the following general properties.

  • Nonmetals have high ionization energy as well as electronegativity. Because of their properties, nonmetals commonly gain electrons when reacting with other molecules, generating covalent bonds. Among nonmetals, anionic dopants have a significant influence on the VB. Non-metal dopants include carbon, nitrogen, fluorine, sulphur, and iodine.
  • Bromine is a liquid nonmetal at ambient temperature.
  • Metal atoms are frequently smaller than nonmetal atoms. The number of additional properties of nonmetals is determined by their atomic sizes.
  • Nonmetal electrical conductivities are exceedingly low. The most essential distinction between nonmetals and metals is their low or non-existent electrical conductivity.
  • Nonmetals have a high level of electronegativity. This suggests that nonmetal atoms have a strong motivation to keep the electrons that they currently possess. Non-metals, on the other hand, easily give up one or more electrons, allowing materials to form ions that are positively charged and conduct electricity.
  • Under normal temperatures and pressure, certain nonmetals exist as gases, some as solids, and one as liquids. 
  • Because of the huge number of nonmetals that can be found as liquids or gases, their melting and boiling temperatures are low under normal atmospheric conditions.
  • Nonmetals are prone to becoming brittle in their solid state. As a result, they lack metal's malleability and ductility.

Physical Properties Of Non-Metals

  • Some nonmetals exist as gases, some as solids, and others as liquids at normal temperature and pressure circumstances. Except for mercury, each metal is solid at room temperature. Because so many nonmetals exist as liquids or gases, nonmetals have generally low melting and boiling points under normal atmospheric circumstances.
  • Nonmetals are fragile in their solid state. As a result, they lose the malleability and ductility that metals have.
  • Ductility is the quality of the material that will be stretched into wires, however, nonmetals are not ductile except for carbon, which is used in a range of sectors including sports and music equipment.
  • Malleability, another attribute unique to metals, is missing in nonmetals. They cannot be drawn into sheets because they are brittle and break when pressure is applied.
  • Nonmetals have extremely low electrical conductivities. The most important attribute that distinguishes nonmetals from metals is their low or non-existent electrical conductivity.
  • They are not sonorous, and when struck with another material, they do not make a deep ringing sound. Except for graphite, they are likewise poor heat and electricity conductors.

Chemical Properties Of Non-Metals

Water Interaction

Nonmetals do not react with water, but they are typically quite reactive in air, which is why a few of them are preserved in water. Phosphorus, for example, is a highly reactive nonmetal that catches flame when exposed to air, which is why it is kept in water to avoid exposure to atmospheric oxygen.

Acidic Reaction

There is no evidence that any of the nonmetals react with acids.

The Base Reaction

The reaction between nonmetals and bases is quite complicated. Chlorine reacts with bases such as sodium hydroxide to produce sodium hypochlorite, sodium chloride, and water.

The Oxygen Reaction

When nonmetals react with oxygen, they generate oxides. Nonmetal oxides are either acidic or neutral.

Metal Reactivity

Nonmetals react with metals to generate ionic compounds.

Uses Of Non-Metals

  • Nitrogen is utilized in the production of ammonia, nitric acid, and fertilizers.
  • Chlorine is used in water purification.
  • Hydrogen is an excellent rocket fuel.
  • When carbon is in the form of graphite, it can be used to produce pencils.
  • Sulphur is used to make sulphuric acid.

Main Difference Between Metals And Non-Metals in Points

The distinction between metals and nonmetals can be clearly defined by the following premises:

  • Metals are natural elements which are hard, bright, opaque, and dense. Non-metals are chemical substances which are soft, non-shiny, transparent, and brittle.
  • Metals are electropositive because they shed electrons rapidly, making them reducing agents. Non-metals, on the other hand, are electronegative because they gain electrons and hence act as oxidising agents.
  • Non-metals have an amorphic structure, whereas metals have a crystalline structure.
  • Metals are normally solid at room temperature, except for mercury and gallium, which are liquids. Non-metals, on the other hand, can be found in either solid or gaseous form, except for bromine, which is only found in liquid form.
  • Density is the mass-to-volume ratio; metals have a higher density than nonmetals.
  • Metals are smooth and glossy, but nonmetals are usually drab.
  • Metals are generally hard substances, however, the hardness varies from substance to substance. Except for diamond, which is the hardest substance on the planet, nonmetals are soft.
  • Malleability is the ability of metals to be transformed into thin sheets when pounded with a hammer. Non-metals, on the other hand, are brittle, as they break down into fragments when beaten with a hammer.
  • Metals can draw into wires due to ductility, whereas nonmetals do not.
  • Metals with sonorous properties provide a deep or ringing sound. Non-metals, on the other hand, are not sonorous.
  • Metals aid in the transmission of heat and electricity. Non-metals, on the other hand, are insulators and hence do not support heat and electrical conduction.
  • Metals have exceptionally high melting and boiling points. Non-metals, on the other hand, are boiled and melted at relatively moderate temperatures.
  • Metals have 1 to 3 electrons in their outer shell, whereas nonmetals have 4 to 8 electrons.
  • Metal oxides are formed when metals combine with oxygen to generate metal oxides, that are basic and have electrovalent or ionic connections. Non-metals, on the other hand, have covalent bonds when they react with oxygen to generate acidic non-metal oxides.


Everything around us is formed of metals or nonmetals. Metalloids are elements that have the properties of both metals and nonmetals. Boron, silicon, germanium, arsenic, and other elements are included.


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"Difference Between Metals and Non-Metals." Diffzy.com, 2023. Tue. 28 Nov. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-metals-and-non-metals>.

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