A Quick Guide to the Properties of Matter | General Chemistry 1

Matter is everything that exists in the world around us. Everything from the air to our hair, to planets and stars, is made of matter. Properties are what make something different from other things. The properties of matter can be classified by their chemical properties or physical properties, but they all have something in common: you can measure them!

Properties of matter help you classify objects because they define how an object will react under certain conditions - for example, if you put ice in a pot on your stovetop, it'll melt into water when heated up enough. So, let's take a look at the structure and properties of matter.

How Many Properties of Matter Are There?

All properties of matter can be categorized into two types: physical and chemical. Physical properties can be further broken down into two more categories: intensive or extensive.

What are the Physical Properties of Matter?

A physical property is a characteristic of matter that does not change with chemical composition. Familiar examples include density, color, and hardness; however they are far from the only ones! For instance, electrical conductivity is also a physical property, as well as melting points or boiling points for liquids at given pressures.

Extensive vs. Intensive Physical Properties

The measure of extensive properties - for example, mass and volume - is dependent upon the amount of matter that is being measured. Conversely, intensive properties are not affected by how much of a substance you have.

List of Intensive Properties:

  • chemical potential (symbol μ)
  • color
  • concentration (symbol c)
  • density (symbol ρ) (or specific gravity)
  • magnetic permeability (symbol μ)
  • melting point and boiling point
  • molality (symbol m or b)
  • pressure (symbol p)
  • refractive index
  • specific conductance (or electrical conductivity)
  • specific heat capacity (symbol cp)
  • specific internal energy (symbol u)
  • specific rotation (symbol [α])
  • specific volume (symbol v)
  • standard reduction potential (symbol E°)
  • surface tension
  • temperature (symbol T)
  • thermal conductivity
  • viscosity

List of Extensive Properties:

Physical Properties vs. Chemical Properties vs. States of Matter - What's the Difference?

Physical Properties vs. Chemical Properties

The main difference between physical properties and chemical properties is that the former are unaffected by the makeup of the substance. Density, for instance, has nothing to do with the chemicals in a substance. It is related to how tightly atoms or molecules are packed together in a volume. 

What Are Examples of Chemical Properties?

Chemical properties are what make up the change in matter that results in an entirely different kind of substance. Basically, a chemical change happens when the elements of a substance are reshuffled.

Certain properties can only be observed if matter undergoes this type of transformation, such as boiling points or melting points for instance!

Examples of chemical properties:

Physical Properties vs. States of Matter

There are four different states of matter: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. While physical properties are the same across all states of matter, there are some properties exclusive to a certain state. For example, a gas is unable to hold a shape by itself - it must be contained by other matter or air pressure.

What are the Examples of Different States of Matter?

A solid is a state in which matter has shape and volume but can't flow. A liquid is a state in which matter has shape, volume, and will flow. A gas is a state in which matter does not have shape or volume but can be compressed into a small space or let out into a large one. Plasma is the fourth state of matter which is similar to an ionized gas. It contains mostly free electrons and positively charged ions, which are left behind when one of these particles leaves its charge center.

Water is a substance that can exist in 3 of the 4 states of matter. It can be a liquid (regular water), solid (ice), or gas (steam). However, water cannot exist as a plasma because this state exists with far too much excitement.

What are the Properties of Elements in the Periodic Table?

Important terms to know that describe the properties of elements in the periodic table include:

What Properties of Matter Can be Measured?

Some properties can be measured, while others cannot. The properties that can be measured are things like pressure, weight, mass, density, temperature, and volume. The properties that cannot be measured are things like color and taste.

Why are Properties of Matter Important?

Properties of matter are important for many reasons. For one, the properties that can be measured allow scientists to determine how much work is needed to change an object from one state to another--this is called potential energy. 

Every object, from rocks to humans is made up of various forms and types of matter. It's important for scientists to know how these substances behave so that they can calculate what will happen when one interacts with another thing.

What Are the 4 Classifications of Matter?

Matter can be classified as an element, compound, or mixture with regard to its physical state and composition. This is based on whether the elements are together in one piece (a homogeneous mixture) or not mixed at all into another substance that has different properties like density for example (heterogeneous).

How do the Properties of Matter Help you Classify Objects?

The properties of matter help you to classify objects because properties like whether they're solids, liquids, or gases; whether they dissolve; and if they compress will determine which category the object falls into. 


It's important to remember that there are three main types of properties for matter: physical, chemical, and states. These different properties will affect how we can use the substance in various applications and understanding these differences will help you know best when to apply each type of property depending on your needs with whatever material you're working with.