Properties of Metals and Non-metals

Everything on Earth is made up of atoms, and the different types of atoms are called elements. The staggered line below separates the metals from the non-metals.

Partial periodic table highlighting elements in colours. Nonmetals are marked in purple, including elements like Hydrogen (H), Carbon (C), and Oxygen (O). Metals, which form the majority of the table, are displayed in green, with elements like Lithium (Li), Sodium (Na), and Calcium (Ca) among others. Each element is represented by its chemical symbol and atomic number.

To the left of the staggered red line are the metals (except hydrogen) and to the right of it are the non-metals.


There is a wide range of metals, some of which you will easily recognise, such as copper (Cu) or aluminium (Al). Then there are some elements you may not realise are metals, such as calcium (Ca) or potassium (K). However, all metals have similar properties.

Metals have a special type of bonding called metallic bonding, which gives them specific properties.

Diagram illustrating metallic bonding. An array of large blue circles, each labelled with a '+' symbol, represents metal ions. Between these blue circles are smaller yellow dots labelled with a '-' symbol, representing delocalised electrons.

When metals react, they lose electrons to form positive ions. The electrons are delocalised. This means that they are not associated with a specific atom or molecule and are free to move throughout a material.

Metals have similar properties, such as:

  • Good conductors of heat and electricity
  • High melting and boiling points
  • Strength and malleability (the ability to be bent and shaped without breaking).


Non-metals are typically found on the right side of the periodic table. They have properties that differ from those of metals, such as:

  • Typically having a lower density
  • Poor conductors of heat and electricity
  • Tend to be more brittle

Many of the non-metals are gases at room temperature, for example, oxygen (O) and chlorine (Cl). However, there are also some non-metals that are solid at room temperature, such as carbon (C).

Comparing Properties of Metals and Non-metals

All metals have similar properties and in the same way, all non-metals have similar properties. Below is the table comparing some of the general properties of metals and non-metals:

High Melting pointsLow boiling points
Good conductor of electricityBad conductors of electricity
Good conductors of heatBad conductors of heat
High densityLow density
Malleable (you can hammer them into shape)Brittle
Ductile (can be pulled out into wires)

The metals very close to the line that separates the metals from the non-metals are called metalloids. Metalloids share some properties with both metals and non-metals.

There are also some metals and non-metals with properties that are not typical for their category. For example, graphite, which is a form of carbon, has a high boiling point and is a good conductor of electricity; these are both typical properties of metals.