Metals and Non-metals

Understanding the Chemical Properties of Metals and Non-metals

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The existence of life would have been impossible without the presence of metals and non-metals. Non-metals like oxygen make survival possible. Metals, too, have an essential role to play in our day-to-day lives. 

Every metal and non-metal has various chemical and physical properties that distinguish them from one another. 

Let us now understand the chemical properties of metal and non-metal elements.


Metals are lustrous, hard, ductile, malleable, and sonorous and are good conductors of heat and electricity. Metals include aluminum, copper, iron, gold, silver, etc. Aluminum is present in abundance on the earth’s crust. 

Apart from mercury, all the metals are found in solid form. Metals donate their electrons and form positive ions to get stable. These are thus electropositive elements.


Non-metals do not conduct heat or electricity. These are not ductile, nor are they malleable. Non-metals are brittle, non-lustrous, and are insulators. Non-metals include phosphorus, oxygen, carbon, etc. Here are some facts about nonmetals:

  1. There are a total of 22 non-metals, of which 10 of them are solid. 
  2. Bromine is the only non-metal that is liquid.
  3. The remaining 11 non-metals are gaseous.
  4. Non-metals form a negative ion by gaining electrons.
  5. These are electronegative.
  6. Hydrogen is an exception.
  7. It is the only non-metal that loses its electrons.

Below is a complete list of the chemical properties of both metals and nonmetals. It is a handy resource to prepare for any examination.

Chemical Properties of Metals

Here are the chemical properties of metals.

  • Metals usually have high density.
  • These are ductile and malleable.
  • Metals react with non-metals and other metals to form an alloy.
  • Metals like boron react with the air and then corrode.
  • Metals are good electricity and heat conductors. The metal lead, however, is an exception.
  • Metals generally stay in the solid-state when at room temperature, with the sole exception of mercury.
  • There are several metals that convert to metal oxide when they burn in air or oxygen. The highly reactive metals react very violently when they are burned in oxygen.
  • Potassium and sodium react with the air within seconds when they are stored in oil. These metals are highly active. Gold, platinum, and silver are less reactive metals, and they stay lustrous and shiny. These do not tarnish very fast.
  • Metals when they react with water from hydrogen gas and metal oxide.
  • The soluble metal oxides create a metal hydroxide when they dissolve in water.
  • All the metals present on earth do not react with water. There are some highly reactive metals like potassium and sodium that react violently with water. This causes a reaction that is exothermic where there is immediate fire because of the presence of hydrogen.
  • When a metal and an acid reacts, it produces hydrogen and salt.
  • The metal will usually displace the less reactive metal in any metal and salt solution in a chemical reaction.
  • Metals react with oxygen to form a metal oxide. Metal oxides are usually basic, but there are some like aluminum oxide that possesses acidic and basic properties. These metals react with acids and bases to make salt and water, which are called Amphoteric oxides.
  • Copper does not burn in oxygen, but it forms a coat of black copper oxide. Gold and silver do not react with oxygen when it is at a high temperature. When at room temperature, the metal surfaces of magnesium, zinc, and aluminum get covered with a thin oxide layer, preventing further oxidation.
  • Metals will form either metal oxide or metal hydroxide and hydrogen when it reacts with water.
  • On reacting with acids, metals make a pop sound caused by the burning of hydrogen gas.
  • Metals when they react with a base salt from hydrogen gas.

Chemical Properties of Nonmetals

Here are the chemical properties of nonmetals.

  • Non- metals are poor electricity and heat conductors except gaseous carbon and graphite.
  • Non-metals are neither ductile or malleable.
  • It is a natural tendency for the non-metals to react more with metals than with the non-metals.
  • The non-metals will react with the other non-metals at a high temperature.
  • Most non-metals are not reactive with air when at room temperature. The only exception is white phosphorus, the only non-metal that reacts with air and burns to covert to its oxide.
  • Non-metals do not usually react with water. Chlorine, however, dissolves in water and then forms an acidic solution.
  • Non-metals have a very low density.
  • Non-metals do not form any alloy except for phosphorus, silicon, and carbon.
  • You can find non-metals in all matter states when at room temperature.
  • Different non-metals have different reactions.
  • The most reactive non-metal is chlorine in the halogen family. As per their reactivity order, chlorine is more reactive than bromine which is more reactive than iodine. This means that chlorine will be able to displace bromine and iodine in a solution that has bromide and iodide.
  • When the non-metals with high electron reactivity react with alkaline and alkali earth metals, it forms an ionic solid.
  • Non-metals do not have any chemical reaction with water though they are highly reactive in air. These are thus stored in water.
  • Non- metals will not react with the diluted acids, and thus these do not liberate hydrogen gas.
  • Non-metals react with bases in a complex manner and form a salt.


It is interesting to know the chemical properties of metal and non-metals. However, the fundamental question is – what is a chemical property? When one kind of material changes to another kind, then it is known as a chemical property. It is a material property that comes either during or after any chemical reaction. 

A chemical change is when one or more new substances are formed. A chemical change is the same as a chemical reaction. Metals, as well as non-metals, react with the same elements in different ways. There are also differences in how various metals could react with the same elements. 

Knowing the chemical properties of metals and non-metals is essential to understand the right way to store and handle them. These properties are also crucial in building chemical classifications.

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