Metals and Non-metals


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 non-metal. Materials can be further divided into metals and non-metals. The characteristic feature of metals like aluminum 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.

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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


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


Metals are the 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.


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, aluminum, 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 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-metals 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 luster

  • 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 luster

  • 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 that reacts with air to form its oxide by burning

Differentiate Between Metals and Non-metals

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



Metals are sonorous in nature, it 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 its valance shell

Non-metals are good oxidizing agent because it accepts electrons in its 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

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

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


Uses of Metals

  • Metals are used for different purposes, including making sheets and wires. For example, aluminum 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 its 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

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

Ans. 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 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 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).