Metals and Non-metals

Dhristi JEE 2022-24


The periodic table can be segregated broadly into two types of elements, commonly referred to as metals and non-metals. Each of these elements has varying properties and can be found in a wide range of places, such as buildings, bridges, roads, electric cables, cars, mobile phones, laptops, and aircraft. These are also found in the oxygen we breathe and the carbon dioxide we exhale as well.

Metals and Non-metals are elements that exist in our surroundings. So, it is essential to know whether a particular element is either a metal or nonmetal. Materials can be further divided into metals and non-metals. The characteristic feature of metals like aluminium and copper is a high thermal and electrical conductivity, whereas non-metals like sulfur and phosphorus metal are the insulators. These elements are distinguished based on their properties. 

Properties of Metals and Non-metals

Let us have a look at the properties of metals and non-metals.


Metals are the materials possessing or holding the characteristics of being hard, fusible, shiny, malleable, ductile, and so on. A few examples of metals (materials) are Silver, Gold, Copper, Aluminium, Iron, and many more.


Physical and Chemical Properties of Metals

A few of the physical and chemical properties of Metals are given below in a brief manner.


Physical Properties of Metals

Malleability: The property of metals by which they may be beaten into thin sheets is malleability. An example is a silver metal beaten to make silver foil used for sweets decoration.


Ductility: Ductility is the property of metals by virtue which can be drawn into thin wires. Examples are copper, iron which can be drawn into thin wires.


Conductivity: Metals are good conductors of heat and electricity. The best conductors of electricity are copper and silver. However, Mercury and lead are poor conductors. Except for Caesium and Gallium, they also have a high melting point.


Solid: All the metals are solid, except Mercury. At room temperature, Mercury remains in a liquid state. The exceptional metals are Potassium (K), Sodium (Na), and Mercury. Metals like Potassium (K) and Sodium (Na) are easily cut with a knife. Other examples of metals are copper, silver, iron, aluminium, gold, calcium, and more.


Chemical Properties of Metals

A few of the chemical properties of metals are listed below.

  • Usually, the density of metals is high

  • Metals are ductile, malleable 

  • Metals forms an alloy with other metals or non-metals

  • More metals produce the metal oxide, and highly reactive metals react violently by burning in the oxygen of the air

  • Metals like sodium, potassium are stored in oil as they react with air in seconds and are highly reactive

  • Less reactive metals like silver, gold, platinum and more do not tarnish easily. They stay lustrous and shiny.



Non-metals do not hold the characteristics of metals; it means they are not hard, shiny, fusible, malleable, ductile, and so on. Many materials like Sulphur, coal are too soft and dull in appearance. They can be broken down into very fine thin powdery mass when tapped with a hammer. They are neither sonorous nor very poor conductors of heat and electricity. Non-metal examples are oxygen, carbon, Sulphur, and more.


Physical and Chemical Properties of Non-metals

A few of the physical and chemical properties of non-metals are given below in a brief manner.


Physical Properties of Non-metals

  • Non-metals may be of solids, liquids, or gases

  • Except for Graphite, non-metals are poor conductors of heat and electricity

  • They don’t possess metallic lustre

  • Non-metals do not produce a ringing sound and are not sonorous

  • Non-metals possess no malleability and are not ductile 

  • Except for iodine, they have a dull lustre

  • Examples of non-metals are oxygen, carbon, Sulphur, phosphorous, and many more


Chemical Properties of Non-metals

A few of the chemical properties of non-metals are listed below.

  • Except for Graphite and Gas carbon, non-metals are poor conductors of heat and electricity

  • Non-metals aren’t ductile and malleable unlike metals

  • These react more with metals compared to non-metals.

  • Non-metals usually react with other non-metals at high temperatures

  • Most non-metals don’t react with air at room temperature

  • The only non-metal is white phosphorus which reacts with air to form its oxide by burning


Differentiate between Metals and Non-Metals

A few of the differences between metal and non-metal are tabulated below.



Metals are sonorous, which means produces sound when hit by an object

Non-metals do not produce any sound

Metals are good reducing agent because it loses electrons easily from their valance shell

Non-metals are good oxidizing agent because it accepts electrons in their outermost shell

React with oxygen to form basic oxides 

Usually react with oxygen to form acidic oxides

These have low ionization enthalpy 

These have high ionization enthalpy

Loses electrons to form electropositive ions

Accepts electrons to form electronegative ions

Metals contain 1-3 electrons in their outermost shell

Non-metals contain 4-8 electrons in their outermost shell

Metals are lustrous, i.e., having a shining appearance

Non-metals are dull in appearance

Metals are malleable

Non-metals are not malleable

A Quick Revision: 

In chemistry, Elements can be divided into metals and nonmetals and it is important to know whether a particular element is a metal or nonmetal before performing any chemical research. Metals (like copper and aluminium) are good conductors of heat and electricity, while nonmetals (such as phosphorus and sulfur) are considered insulators. A nonmetal is a chemical element that usually gains electrons when reacting with metal, and which forms an acid if combined with oxygen and hydrogen. Nonmetals display more variety in colour and state than metals do.

Chemistry is really important and efficient for the research and study of living organisms because it helps students and scientists to understand the life processes of every living thing on earth at the molecular level. At any molecular level, every process of life takes place due to the involvement of various minor or major chemical reactions.

Thus, the students need to learn their chapters well and understand all the chemistry concepts by practising with a maximum number of past years’ question papers and sample question papers available on the Vedantu website. This will help them to understand the time management skill and learn the marking schemes that carry maximum marks and plan which question needs what type of answers. Break down larger portions into smaller effective points and write them down in a separate notebook so it will help you in revising before the exams. Make note of the important questions that keep repeating in the recent past year question papers give more weightage to those questions and prepare a little extra because it might repeat in the current year also. If you have any doubts about the equations and chemical formulations that are taught during the classes then try to spend some extra time in the lab and get to understand all the concepts by trying out the experiments and practising them well. This will help you write your formulas and equations well.

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are the basic characteristics of metals and non-metals?

Basically there are two types of elements metals and non-metals considered for chemical research. In the elemental form, non-metals can be found in gas, liquid, or even solid form. They aren't shiny (lustrous) and they don't conduct heat or electricity as well. Usually, their melting points are found to be lower than it is for metals, although there are some specific exceptions in certain cases. The solids usually break easily, and can't bend as well as metals do while undergoing the heating processes.

2. Are nonmetals Reactive or nonreactive?

This chapter has very clearly explained both metals and nonmetals about their main properties and the way they react to every element. Generally, if you have concentrated well you can realize that nonmetals include a relatively low boiling point, so many nonmetals are found as gases. Nonmetals are also considered as poor conductors of heat, and solid nonmetals are dull and brittle. Some nonmetals are very reactive, whereas others are not reactive at all. It all depends on the number of electrons present in their outer energy level.

3. How do you prepare this chapter?

Any subject or chapter for that matter needs full attention and practice. Students can make use of the Vedantu website for a more detailed explanation of every concept in this chapter. They have very clearly differentiated metal and non-metals by various experiments hence helping students to understand the concept well. Students can check these videos even offline whenever they have any doubts or feel like revising before exams.

4. Which element has some part of the properties of metals and some properties of non metals?

In chemistry, there is a third element other than the metals and non-metals which has properties of these both shared. There is a unique element called metalloids which shares properties of both metals and nonmetals during the chemical reaction. They're also called the semimetals because of the shared properties of these elements along the dividing line between metals and nonmetals.

5. Why is oxygen known as a nonmetal?

There are many unique and magical properties and purposes of oxygen on earth. Oxygen is a member of the chalcogen group on the periodic table and hence it is treated as a highly reactive nonmetallic element. Oxygen in its free form is chemically reactive to appear on Earth without the photosynthetic action of living organisms. This process uses the energy of sunlight as a source to produce elemental oxygen from water.

6. List the uses of Metals and Non-metals?

Uses of Metals

  • Metals are used for different purposes, including making sheets and wires. For example, aluminium and copper wires in electrical equipment, especially for the conduction of electricity

  • Also, metals are used in manufacturing machinery, water boilers, automobiles, industrial gadgets, and more

  • Metals are used in making water boilers, utensils due to their property of being a good conductor of heat


Uses of Non-metals

  • Many non-metals such as Sulphur, chlorine, iodine are much useful for medicinal purposes

  • Non-metal such as oxygen is much essential for our life for respiration purpose

  • Nitrogen phosphorus is used in fertilizers for better plant growth and to enhance the soil fertility

  • A Sulphur like non-metal is useful in crackers

  • Fluorine and chlorine are useful for water purification purposes

7. How can we identify an element is a Metal or a Non-metal?

It is done based on its valency.


Metal is one that loses or donates electrons to form cations. They have either 1, 2 or 3 electrons in their outermost shells. It is easier for them to produce a complete octet by giving away either 1, 2, or 3 electrons rather than by accepting more than 4 electrons. Therefore, their valencies are +1, 2, 3. This behaviour is known as a metallic character.


Besides, elements with 4, 5, 6, 7 electrons in the valence shell prefer accepting electrons and forming anions. Thus they have valencies as -3, -2, and -1. This behaviour is known as a non-metallic character.


Thus we can classify elements as metals and non-metals based on their behaviour (whether they accept or donate the electrons to form ions).