Difference between metals and nonmetals


Most elements are metals. Including alkali metals, alkaline earth metals, actinides, lanthanides, and transition metals. Metals and nonmetals are separated by a zigzag line that traverses carbon, phosphorus, selenium, iodine, and radon.

These elements along with those to their right are nonmetals. To the left of the line, elements with characteristics between those of metals and nonmetals are metalloids or semimetals.


Except for hydrogen, nonmetals are on the right side of the periodic table. Non-metallic elements include hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, oxygen, sulfur, halogens, and noble gases.

Differences between metals and nonmetals

Metal is a solid that is usually hard, shiny, and opaque. While a non-metal is a solid or gaseous substance that does not have any metallic properties.

Matter is a material that has mass and takes up space. It can be found in three different forms an element, a compound, and a mixture. Elements are the purest form of matter. They have three groups.

These groups are metals, metalloids, and non-metals. These three elements are split into two groups based on their physical and chemical properties.

Non-metals have between four and eight electrons in their outer shell. While metals only have one to three. Metals tend to lose their valence electrons. Non-metals can share or gain valence electrons.

Non-metals make acidic oxides instead of basic oxides like metals do. While metals are good at reducing, non-metals are good at oxidizing.


Metals Non Metals
 They normally do not combine with hydrogen. Few reactive metals react with hydrogen to form ionic metal hydrides. Non-metals react with hydrogen to form stable, covalent hydrides.
 Metals form ionic chlorides with chlorine. They form covalent chlorides with chlorine,
They displace hydrogen from dilute acids. Non-metals do not react with dilute acids
 Metals displace hydrogen from water (or steam). They do not react with water (or steam)
They form basic oxides. Non-metals form acidic oxides or neutral oxides

Differences in physical properties

Metals Non-metals
Metals have high densities they They have low densities
They are electropositive Nonmetals are electronegative
Metals are shiny These are non-lustrous except for iodine
These are malleable and ductile Nonmetals are brittle and can break down into pieces
Metals are very hard except for sodium These are soft except for diamond
These are solids at room temperature except mercury Nonmetals exist in all three states

Key points: Difference Between Metals and Nonmetals

  • Metals are usually solids that are hard and look metallic. They conduct electricity and heat well and have high melting and boiling points.
  • Elements that are non-metals tend to be softer and more colorful. It could be a solid, a liquid, or a gas. They melt and boil at lower temperatures than most metals.
  • Non-metals have between four and eight electrons in their outer shell. While metals have between one and three.
  • Metals can be beaten into thin sheets because they are malleable. But, elements that are non-metals are very weak.
  • The density of metals is high to moderate, while the density of non-metals is low to moderate.
  • Non-metals are transparent and metals are opaque.
  • At room temperature, metals are solid, and non-metals can be either solid or liquid.
  • Valence electrons tend to be lost by metals, but they can be shared or gained by non-metals.

List of Metals

3 Li Lithium
4 Be Beryllium
11 Na Sodium
12 Mg Magnesium
13 Al Aluminum
19 K Potassium
20 Ca Calcium
21 Sc Scandium
22 Ti Titanium
23 V Vanadium
24 Cr Chromium
25 Mn Manganese
26 Fe Iron
27 Co Cobalt
28 Ni Nickel
29 Cu Copper
30 Zn Zinc
31 Ga Gallium
37 Rb Rubidium
38 Sr Strontium
39 Y Yttrium
40 Zr Zirconium
41 Nb Niobium
42 Mo Molybdenum
43 Tc Technetium
44 Ru Ruthenium
45 Rh Rhodium
46 Pd Palladium
47 Ag Silver
48 Cd Cadmium
49 In Indium
50 Sn Tin
55 Cs Cesium
56 Ba Barium
57 La Lanthanum
58 Ce Cerium
59 Pr Praseodymium
60 Nd Neodymium
61 Pm Promethium
62 Sm Samarium
63 Eu Europium
64 Gd Gadolinium
65 Tb Terbium
66 Dy Dysprosium
67 Ho Holmium
68 Er Erbium
69 Tm Thulium
70 Yb Ytterbium
71 Lu Lutetium
72 Hf Hafnium
73 Ta Tantalum
74 W Tungsten
75 Re Rhenium
76 Os Osmium
77 Ir Iridium
78 Pt Platinum
79 Au Gold
80 Hg Mercury
81 Tl Thallium
82 Pb Lead
83 Bi Bismuth
84 Po Polonium
87 Fr Francium
88 Ra Radium
89 Ac Actinium
90 Th Thorium
91 Pa Protactinium
92 U Uranium
93 Np Neptunium
94 Pu Plutonium
95 Am Americium
96 Cm Curium
97 Bk Berkelium
98 Cf Californium
99 Es Einsteinium
100 Fm Fermium
101 Md Mendelevium
102 No Nobelium
103 Lr Lawrencium
104 Rf Rutherfordium
105 Db Dubnium
106 Sg Seaborgium
107 Bh Bohrium
108 Hs Hassium
109 Mt Meitnerium
110 Ds Darmstadtium
111 Rg Roentgenium
112 Cn Copernicium
113 Nh Nihonium
114 Fl Flerovium
115 Mc Moscovium
116 Lv Livermorium

List of nonmetals

1 H Hydrogen
2 He Helium
6 C Carbon
7 N Nitrogen
8 O Oxygen
9 F Fluorine
10 Ne Neon
15 P Phosphorus
16 S Sulfur
17 Cl Chlorine
18 Ar Argon
34 Se Selenium
35 Br Bromine
36 Kr Krypton
53 I Iodine
54 Xe Xenon
85 At Astatine
86 Rn Radon
117 Ts Tennessine
118 Og Oganesson

The Metalloids

It’s hard to tell the difference between metals and nonmetals. Semimetals or metalloids are elements that have traits of metals and nonmetals.

On the periodic table, a stair-step line roughly separates metals from nonmetals but chemists know that it is subjective to call one element a “metal” and the one next to it a “metalloid.” Most metals can act like nonmetals under certain circumstances and vice versa.

Hydrogen is an example of an element that sometimes acts like a nonmetal and sometimes like a metal. Hydrogen is gas in most situations. So, it acts like something that is nonmetal but when put under a lot of pressure, it turns into solid metal.

Hydrogen is often the +1 cation even when it is a gas (a metallic property). Still, it sometimes makes the -1 anion (a nonmetal property).

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