Most Notable Chemical Properties of Metals and Non-metals

Based on their features and physical qualities, elements on Earth are classed as metals or nonmetals. Metals are depicted on the left side of the periodic table, whereas nonmetals are on the right. 

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Metals are prone to losing electrons and forming cations, and they combine with oxygen to generate metal oxides. For example, potassium burns in seconds but iron rusts over a lengthy period of time, sometimes taking years to oxidize. Metal oxides are basic, whereas nonmetal oxides are acidic.

Nonmetals have a higher electronegativity and higher ionization energy. In aqueous solutions, they exist as anions or oxyanions, and when combined with metals, they form ionic or interstitial compounds.

What are Metals?

You might think of Earth as a giant lump of rock, hard on the exterior and squishy in the center, but it’s made up of a lot of metal. What is metal, exactly? Metals make up more than three-quarters of the chemical elements found naturally on our planet, so it’s almost easier to describe what metal isn’t.

The majority of elements are metals. Alkali metals, transition metals, alkaline earth metals, actinides, and lanthanides are examples of these. Metals are separated from nonmetals on the periodic table by a zig-zag line that passes through phosphorus, carbon, Iodine, selenium, and radon.

These and the elements to their right are nonmetals. To the line’s left, elements are metalloids or semimetals because their characteristics are midway between metals and nonmetals. Metals and nonmetals can be distinguished by their physical and chemical characteristics.

Chemical Properties of Metals

Listed here are a few of the chemical characteristics of metals.

  • Less reactive metals, such as silver, gold, platinum, and others, do not tarnish quickly. They retain their luster and radiance.
  • Metals like sodium and potassium are kept in oil because they react quickly with air. They are very reactive metals.
  • Metals often have a high density.
  • Metals, except for lead, are excellent heat and electrical conductors.
  • Some metals, such as iron, rust when they come into contact with air.
  • Metals are malleable and ductile.
  • With the exception of Mercury, all other metals are solid at room temperature. Mercury, on the other hand, is a liquid.
  • Metals combine with other metals or nonmetals to produce alloys.
  • By burning the oxygen in the air, more metals generate metal oxide. When highly reactive metals are burned in oxygen, they react violently.
  • When metals react with water, they generate hydrogen gas and metal oxide.
  • In a metal salt solution, a metal often displaces a less reactive metal.
  • Not all metals react with water. However, highly reactive metals such as sodium and potassium react aggressively with water, resulting in an exothermic reaction in which the hydrogen rapidly catches fire.
  • When a metal combines with an acid, it produces hydrogen and salt.
  • Metal hydroxide is formed when soluble metal oxides dissolve in water.

What are Nonmetals?

There are very few nonmetals on the periodic table, and we find these on the periodic table’s right side. Nonmetal elements include sulfur, halogens, carbon, phosphorus, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, selenium, and noble gases.

Nonmetals are found in the periodic table to the left of halogens and metalloids’ right. Because noble gases and halogens are nonmetals, these elements are frequently referred to as nonmetals.

Chemical Properties of Nonmetals

The following are some of the chemical characteristics of nonmetals.

  • The most reactive metal in the halogen family is chlorine, i.e., Iodine (I), Bromine (Br), Chlorine (Cl), and Fluorine (F). Cl > Br > I is the reactivity order of the halogen family. Chlorine (Cl) can therefore displace bromine (Br) and Iodine (I) from solutions of iodides (NaI) and bromides (Br) (NaBr).
  • Nonmetals do generally not react with water. Except for chlorine, which dissolves in water to form an acidic solution, all other elements dissolve in water to form an acidic solution.
  • At high temperatures, nonmetals frequently react with other nonmetals.
  • Nonmetals, unlike metals, are not ductile or malleable.
  • Nonmetals do not form alloys. However, some elements, such as silicon, carbon, and phosphorus, can form.
  • Nonmetals exist in all states of matter at ambient temperature.
  • Nonmetals, except for gas carbon and graphite, are poor heat and electrical conductors.
  • Nonmetals react more strongly with metals than nonmetals do with metals.
  • At room temperature, most nonmetals do not react with air.
  • The only nonmetal is white phosphorus, which burns after reacting with air to generate its oxide.
  • Nonmetals have a lower density than metals.
  • Different nonmetals usually behave differently.
  • Nonmetals with high electronegativity react with alkaline earth metals and alkali to generate ionic solids.

The Metalloids

The line between metals and nonmetals is fairly blurred. Semimetals and metalloids are elements that have characteristics of both metals and nonmetals. On the periodic table, a stair-step line generally separates metals from nonmetals. 

On the other hand, chemists realize that designating one element a “metal” and the one next to it a “metalloid” is a judgment call. Most metals exhibit nonmetal qualities under some conditions, whereas nonmetals behave like metals in others.

Hydrogen is a spectacular example of an element that behaves as a nonmetal at times and metal at others. Hydrogen is a gas under normal circumstances. 

As a result, it behaves similarly to a nonmetal. However, when subjected to extreme pressure, it solidifies. Even though it is gas, hydrogen frequently forms the 1 cation (a metallic property). However, it can sometimes form the -1 anion (a nonmetal property).


Let’s conclude by knowing the Reaction of metals and nonmetals:

  • Elements’ reactivity is defined as a proclivity to achieve a filled valence shell.
  • Metal atoms can lose electrons from their valence shells to create cations ( ve ions).
  • Nonmetal atoms acquire electrons in the valence shell to create anions (–ve ions).
  • Ions with opposite charges attract one other and are kept together by strong electrostatic forces of attraction, resulting in the formation of ionic compounds.

And here’s a fabulous tip: If you keep forgetting the physical/chemical differences between metals/nonmetals, make a chart, and paste it onto your study table. Believe us; it will work!

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