Metals v non-metals

Most elements are metals, rather than non-metals. The table summarises some differences in their properties.

Properties

MetalsNon-metals
AppearanceShinyDull
State at room temperatureSolid (except mercury, which is a liquid)About half are solids, about half are gases, and one (bromine) is a liquid
DensityHigh (they feel heavy for their size)Low (they feel light for their size)
StrengthStrongWeak
Malleable or brittleMalleable (they bend without breaking)Brittle (they break or shatter when hammered)
Conduction of heatGoodPoor (they are insulators)
Conduction of electricityGoodPoor (they are insulators, apart from graphite)
Magnetic materialOnly iron, cobalt and nickelNone
Sound when hitThey make a ringing sound (they are sonorous)They make a dull sound
Type of oxideBasic or alkalineAcidic

Telling them apart

Notice that metals and non-metals have opposite properties to each other. It is usually easy to tell metals and non-metals apart, but some tests are more reliable than others.

For example, using a magnet is not a good test to see if an element is a metal. This is because only three metals are magnetic.

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