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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

What Are the Differences Between Metals and Nonmetals?

By April 6, 2012

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Aluminum is a metal. (Jurii)Often you can identify a material as a metal or a nonmetal just by looking at it. For example, you can tell this foil is a metal. Metallic luster is one characteristic of metals, but if you're asked to distinguish between metals and nonmetals on a test, you're going to need more than one difference between them. Here's a nice extensive list of differences between metals and nonmetals to help you tell them apart based on physical and chemical properties.

Are there any properties I missed? If so, please post a reply.


October 30, 2010 at 11:05 am
(1) Ian Geldard says:

Metals also have the physical property of being ‘sonorous’ – making a bell-like sound when struck.

October 30, 2010 at 4:21 pm
(2) Alan Crooks says:

Have I missed any? Well, metals are sonorous – hence used for making bells. Usually alloys of copper and tin, the present ratio being 13 parts copper to 4 parts of tin. (To be bronze it would have to be more than 50% copper)

October 30, 2010 at 4:23 pm
(3) Alan Crooks says:

Oops. Sorry Ian. Didn’t read your comment before adding mine

October 30, 2010 at 8:14 pm
(4) Bill Yerkes says:

When you write: “opaque as a thin sheet (can’t see through metals) ” I was a bit surprised. I recall reading that very thin films of gold are (were) used in the fabrication of some aircraft “windows” – the expensive laminated pilot front view “glass” included a sandwich of material, including very thin gold film. This metallic film allowed the electric resistance heating and de-icing of the “window” yet was so thin that it did not diminish vision. Gold, if this recollection is true, may be the only such metal. In addition, the characteristic of forming salts and corrosion products, attributed to metals, it ought to be pointed out, tends not to be valid for gold (or platinum).

October 31, 2010 at 8:18 am
(5) chemistry says:


Thin films are different from thin sheets, but even so, there are exceptions to the properties of metals/nonmetals. Allotropes may exhibit markedly different properties from each other. I don’t think a thin sheet of amorphous carbon would be considered transparent, though a sheet of diamond would be.

March 14, 2011 at 12:45 pm
(6) bob karton says:

Thank you very much.!

March 14, 2011 at 12:55 pm
(7) Ben Tant says:

Thank you very help full.xxx

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