Living and Non-Living Things

Introduction

Our Earth, which was formed billions and trillions of years ago, has many things. For Example - The trees, the river, the mountains, the plants, the land, the rock, the birds, the animals, etc. These are all part of our surroundings. We come in contact with them in our day to day lives.

These things around us are differentiated into two types.

a)  Living things

b)  Non-living things

Everything that has life is called a living thing and everything that does not possess life is called a non-living thing. There are many factors that differentiate living things from nonliving things. This differentiating factor is not necessarily activities like moving, running, eating but much more. As we know, there are many things on Earth which do not move, run or eat but they are living things. Plants, for example, are not mobile. They do not eat, but plants have a life. Bacteria that are not even visible to naked eyes is believed to be the first kind of living thing on Earth.

So, what are living and nonliving things and how do we differentiate between them?

1.  Living Things

  • All living things have life. They eat, breathe, feel, grow, and reproduce. 

  • They carry out chemical reactions within their body, which generates energy. This energy within the body is then used to carry out various activities. 

  • Imagine, what would happen without energy being generated inside the body of a living thing. The living thing’s capability to perform various tasks will end and the living being will cease to exist. 

  • Most often, living things also show the capability to move which is called locomotion. 

  • Every living thing that has life, shows the presence of the cell. Inside the cells, there are chemicals that carry out various chemical reactions. These chemical reactions lead to a number of processes. 

  • There are unicellular organisms- living organisms with single cells and multicellular organisms- living organisms with multiple cells living on Earth. 

  • Multicellular organisms also possess tissues, organs, and organ systems, and thus, such organisms have various cells to carry out various functions.

Characteristics of Living things

The characteristics listed below are shown by all living organisms. These characteristics make up a living thing. These factors show the presence of life in these things. All living organisms take birth, grow, reproduce, and ultimately die. This is the life cycle of every living thing on Earth.

  1. Cellular organization- As stated above, all living things must possess a cellular organization. A living thing can be unicellular or multicellular but without the presence of cells, living things cannot exist.

And, inside the cell, various activities function as operating systems of various tasks. The generation of energy for instance mostly takes place by cellular respiration. It is the process of absorbing nutrients from food and then turning it into energy.

  1. Respiration- Respiration is the second basic process that ensures continuity of life. Respiration is the process of exchanging gases. The goal of respiration is to generate energy. This process also leaves living organisms with waste products that should be eliminated from the body.

  1. Nutrition- Proteins, carbohydrates, fats the building blocks of our body. Living organisms derive these nutrients from food. Thus, the process of nutrition is the absorption of nutrients from raw materials or food.

  1. Growth- Various stages of development are included in a life cycle of living things. This is called growth. All living things grow. Thus, growth is a very important characteristic of living organisms.

  1. Locomotion- Most of the living things can move. Animals can move on their own. Example- Leopards, cats, dogs can run. In the case of plants, they move towards the sun, as sunlight is essential for growth.

  1. Response to stimulus- All living things respond to stimulus from the surrounding. They show sensitivity to touch and respond according to their surroundings.

  1. Excretion- Various chemical processes taking place in the body of living things generate a bi-product which is not useful. This is waste and it has to be eliminated from the body. The process of elimination of waste generated in the body is called excretion. Excretion is also a characteristic only possessed by living things.

  1. Reproduction- Only living things have the capability to produce offspring, which carry forward their generation. They have a fragment of genetic material from the parent and also show genetic variation due to the mixing of the genes. Thus, another important characteristic of living things is reproduction. 

Non-Living things

Non-living things do not live. They exist on Earth, right from the time, Earth has formed. They can’t eat, breathe, live, grow, reproduce, or die. They remain in nature as it is. Although, over the course of evolution, they get degraded from their original form. But they can’t die and cease to exist on Earth. Unlike living things, whose continuity depends on the number of factors. Non-Living things are not dependent on such processes. 

Characteristics of Non-Living things

  1. Non-living things are lifeless. They do not have life. Hence, they do not need cells to carry out different processes. So, non-living things do not have cells, which is the basic unit of life.

  1. Due to the absence of cells, tissues, organs, there are no metabolic activities going inside them. No metabolic activity means, no production of energy.

  1. Non-living things do not show locomotion. They cannot move on their own. An external force has to be applied to move non-living things from one place to another.

  1. They do not require nutrition, as they do not show any life processes. They do not need food to produce energy. They do not grow. They do not produce offspring. So, there is no process of reproduction involved in their life cycle.

  1. Non-living things do not die. They cannot vanish on their own. They do not age. An external force can only destroy them.

Example- Mountain, car, ship, water, house, etc.

Difference Between Living and Non-Living things                                            

Living Things

Non-Living Things

All things which possess life are living things.

Non-living things do not possess life.

The basic unit of life is cells

Non-living things do not have cells.

Living things carry out metabolic activities inside their bodies to generate energy.

Non-living things cannot generate energy and have no metabolic activities going inside their bodies.

Living things respire and respiration ensures continuity of life.

Non-living things do not need to respire. 

They show locomotion or movement on their own.

They cannot move on their own unless moved by an external force.

Living things show growth from within.

Non-living things do not grow on their own.

Living things can reproduce and produce offspring of their own.


Non-living things cannot reproduce and neither can they produce their offspring.

 

Living things die due to age, disease or cell death, organ failure, etc.

Non-living things never cease to exist unless they are destroyed by an external force.

Living things eliminate waste from their body through the process of excretion.

Non-living things, neither eat food nor produce waste. Therefore, they do not show the process of excretion.

 

Living things respond to the stimulus from the surrounding. Which implies that living things are sensitive.

Non-living things do not have this characteristic. They do not fall on their own without external force or have senses and hence, they do not respond to stimulus.

 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1.  Why can’t non-living things respire?

Non-living things do not have metabolic activities that go on inside them. They do not produce energy or use it to carry out any process. Hence, non-living things do not need to breathe and do not respire.

2. Plants cannot move but still come under living things. Why?

All living organisms have cells as the basic unit of life. Plants also have them. The presence of cells shows the presence of metabolic activities and various life processes. The plant needs food and eliminates wastes in the form of gases and water. Plants also show other life processes like reproduction, growth. Plants do not move from one to another directly but bent towards a light source to live. Hence, plants come under living things.