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Difference between Metals and Non-Metals

  • Difficulty Level : Expert
  • Last Updated : 18 Oct, 2021

Elements are chemically occurring natural substances that may be found in a free state or combined state. They are extracted from ores. ores are found deep inside the earth’s crust. The ores from which metals can be easily extracted are called minerals. By the definition of minerals, metals can be extracted. 

Based on their characteristics, elements are categorised as either metals or nonmetals. Much of the time, you can determine if an element is a metal by its metallic sheen, but this isn’t the sole distinction between these two broad categories of elements.

What are Metals?

Metals are natural elements that are solid, shiny, opaque, and have a greater density. Metals have extremely high melting and boiling points. They are excellent conductors of heat and electricity. The atoms of metals are organised 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 frequently employed in the manufacture of machinery, water boilers, agricultural equipment, vehicles, industrial equipment, cutlery, and aeroplanes, among other things.

Metals are hard substances with the properties of heat and electrical conductivity (except tungsten). Because these materials are naturally lustrous, polishing them produces a reflecting surface. The reason for this is that metals have free electrons in their structure. And when the surface is exposed to light, these liberated electrons vibrate, giving the appearance of a glossy surface. Lead, on the other hand, is an exception to this rule since it is a metal with a dull look.

Metals are often found in solid form, however, mercury is an exception since it is found in liquid form. Sodium and potassium, on the other hand, are metals that can be cut with a knife without much power since they are not very hard.

Metals are malleable because they can be easily converted into thin sheets. Metals may also be transformed into thin long wires, demonstrating ductility. When the metal surface is struck with high power, a ringing sound is created, demonstrating sonorous behaviour.

Some of the common examples of Metals are: Copper, Iron, Silver, Gold, Aluminium, Lead, Magnesium, Sodium etc.

Physical Properties of Metals

  • Metals are lustrous, polishing them produces a reflecting surface.
  • Good conductors of heat and electricity.
  • Metals have extremely high melting and boiling points.
  • Metals have high density. Therefore they are heavy for their size.
  • Metals are malleable and can be hammered into thin sheets.
  • Metals are Ductile also, therefore can be drawn into wires.
  • Usually solid at room temperature (except Mercury)
  • Metals can be opaque as a thin sheet which means nothing can’t see through metals.
  • Metals are sonorous or make a bell-like sound when struck.

Chemical Properties of Metals

  • Metals generally have 1-3 electrons in the outer shell of each metal atom and therefore, lose electrons readily.
  • Metals have a property to Corrode easily (e.g., damaged by oxidation such as tarnish or rust).
  • They can also lose electrons easily to form bonds.
  • The oxides formed by the metals are basic in nature,
  • Metals exhibit lower electronegativities.
  • Metals are generally good reducing agents.

What are Non-Metals?

Non-metals are soft materials with low electrical and thermal conductivity. Nonmetals, as a result, limit the flow of electric current through them. Graphite, on the other hand, is an exception due to its high electrical conductivity.

Non-metals do not have the characteristic that metals do. They look drab, yet elements such as iodine and diamonds are outstanding non-metals with a gleaming lustre. It can be found in all three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. Non-metals in solid form are typically soft and, when subjected to force, totally transform into powdery material. As a result, they are believed to be fragile.

However, diamond is an exception because it is one of the hardest things and hence is not fragile. Nonmetals have four, five, six, or seven electrons in their outermost shell and hence have a proclivity to receive electrons. As a result, anions develop. These elements have a high melting and boiling point. Nonmetals, on the other hand, have high melting and boiling points, such as silicon and carbon. Nonmetals, in general, do not react with acid, but interact quickly with air and are regarded to be excellent oxidising agents.

Some of the common examples of Non-Metals are: Oxygen, Nitrogen, Carbon, Sulphur, Chlorine, Iodine, Hydrogen, Phosphorus etc.

Physical Properties of Non-Metals

  • Non-Metals are not lustrous, therefore have a dull appearance.
  • Non-Metals are Poor conductors of heat and electricity.
  • Non-Metals are Nonductile as well as Brittle solids.
  • Non-Metals can be solids, liquids or gases at room temperature.
  • Generally, Non-Metals have a transparent appearance like a thin sheet.
  • Non-metals are not sonorous in nature.

Chemical Properties of Non-Metals

  • Non-Metals usually have 4-8 electrons in their outer shell.
  • Therefore, non-Metals readily gain or share valence electrons.
  • Non-Metals forms oxides which are acidic in nature.
  • Non-Metals have higher electronegativities.
  • Also, non-metals are good oxidizing agents.

Difference between the Properties of Metals and Non-Metals





Metals are substances that are hard and have high tensile strength.

Non-metals are substances that are generally gases and not hard.


Yes, metals are generally found to be Malleable.

No, non-metals are generally non-malleable in nature.





Not brittle 


Tensile Strength

High tensile strength

Low tensile strength 


Good conductor of heat and electricity 

Poor conductor of heat and electricity







Physical State at room temperature  

Solid (except mercury and gallium)

Solid or gas (except Bromine)



 Low density

Valence Electrons 

1 to 3 electrons in the outer shell. 

4 to 8 electrons in the outer shell.


React with oxygen and form basic oxides.

React with oxygen and form acidic oxides.

Effects of Oxides formed on Litmus paper

Metal oxides turn red litmus paper into the blue.

Nonmetal oxides turn blue litmus paper into red. 


React with acids and produce hydrogen gas.

Do not usually react with acids.

Sample Questions

Question 1: What happens when metals react with acids?


Most metals react with acids to generate hydrogen gas and salt. However, not all metals react the same way to acids. Salt and hydrogen gas are generated when an acid interacts with a metal.

For Example,

When zinc powder interacts with hydrochloric acid, H2 gas and zinc chloride are produced.

Zn (s) + 2HCl → ZnCl2 + H2

The salt formed is determined by the reaction of acid and metal.

Question 2: Give a reason for the following:

(a) School bells are made up of metals.

(b) Electric wires are made up of copper.


(a) It is because metals are sonorous, i.e. they produce sound when struvk with a hard substance.

(b) It is because copper is good conductor of electricity.

Question 3: Give a reason for the following:

(a) Aluminium oxide is considered an amphoteric oxide.

(b) Ionic compounds conduct electricity in a molten state.


(a) It is because it reacts with acids as well as bases to produce salts and water. ’Al’ is a less electropositive metal. So, it forms an amphoteric oxide which can react with acid as well as the base.

(b) Ionic compounds can conduct electricity in a molten state because ions ’ become free to move in a molten state.

Question 4: What are amphoteric oxides? Choose the amphoteric oxides from amongst the following oxides:

Na2O, ZnO, Al2O3, CO2, H2O


Those oxides which react with acids as well as bases to produce salts and water are called amphoteric oxides, e.g. Na2O, ZnO, are amphoteric oxides among given oxides.

Question 5: Write the chemical name of the coating that forms on silver and copper articles when these are left exposed to moist air.


Ag2S (silver sulphide) is formed on silver, basic copper carbonate CuCO3. Cu(OH)2 is formed on copper.

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