What is Matter? How matter is classified?

If we look around us, we see a large of things of different size and texture. These all are matter. Many of these things we used in our daily life. Matter can be classified in a number of ways. Ancient Indian philosopher said that matter is made up of five basic elements: Air, Earth, Water, Space, Fire.

Modern Science suggests and classifies it into two ways:

  1. Physical Properties.
  2. Chemical Properties.

What is matter?

Our universe is made of matter and energy. We are all surrounded by material objects such as houses, trees, water, animals etc. The presence of these objects can be felt by one or more of our five senses such as sight, touch, hearing, taste, and smell. All these objects constitute the matter.

  • The particles of matter are very, very small in size.
  • These particles have spaces between them.
  • The particles of matter are constantly moving.
  • These particles attract each other.
  • Small particles follow the zig-zag path.This motion called as Brownian motion. Brownian motion increases on increasing the temperature.

It is Interesting to note that whereas matter can be seen, energy cannot be. It can be only felt in the form of heat light and electricity etc.

Definition of matter

Matter is defined as anything which occupies space, possesses mass and can be felt by anyone or more of our senses.

What is a matter made of

According to Dalton’s theory, the smallest portion of matter is an atom which cannot be divided into anything smaller than it. The atoms of same or different elements are combined chemically to form a molecule.

  • The masses of the elements are expressed as atomic masses
  • while the masses of molecules are expressed and given in terms of molecular masses.

What is matter in Science

Science defines matter with its branch named chemistry which deals with the composition and also the physical and chemical characteristics associated with the different material objects. All developments in the chemistry are based on the scientific approach. A scientist is very keen to perform experiments, make observations and draw inferences from the observation.

In order to have a better and systematic understanding, chemistry has been divided into many branches in science.These are:

  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Physical Chemistry
  • Analytical Chemistry.

Classification of Matter

Since matter exists in countless form, its study can be simplified by dividing it into two different ways

  1. Physical Classification. Depending upon the rigidity, volume and shape i.e. physical, nature matter can be classified as solids, liquids, and gases.
  2. Chemical Classification. Depending upon the chemical composition of the substances, the matter may be classified into elements, compounds, and mixtures.

Physical Classification 

The classification is related to the physical state of the substance is divided into three.

  • Solid State: Solids state possesses definite shape and definite volume. Example: Metals, wood.
  • Liquid state: Liquid state possesses definite shape and no definite volume. Example: water, milk.
  • Gaseous state: A gas does not have either a definite shape and definite volume. Examples: Oxygen, air.

Chemical Classification

Chemical Classification is mainly classified into 3 groups.

  • Element: The simplest form of substance (matter) which is made up of one kind of atom. Example: copper, gold etc.
  • Compound: A pure substance having two or more elements in a fixed proportion by weight. Example: water.
  • Mixture: The combination of two or more elements may be in any proportion. Example: air, paint.

All these groups are further classified into sub types(See the diagram below)

Classification of Matter Chart

On the basis of the characteristic properties, the elements are further classified into metals,non-metals, and metalloids.


Elements which have bright luster are good conductors of heat and electricity; malleable ductile; hard solids (except mercury) are called metals. For examples, gold, iron. Of all the known elements about 75% are metals.


Elements which do not possess luster (except iodine); poor conductors of heat and electricity (except graphite); neither malleable nor ductile, brittle and exist in solid, liquid or gaseous state are called nonmetals. Examples, sulphur (solid), bromine (liquid), oxygen (gas).


Elements which have properties of both metals, as well as non-metals, are called metalloids. For example, arsenic, antimony, and bismuth.

The properties of a compound are entirely different from the properties of the elements from which it is made.

Organic Compounds

These are those Compounds which are obtained from the plants and animals.

Inorganic Compounds

These are those which have no carbon atom when compound. Example: ammonia, hydrogen sulfide.

 Homogeneous mixture

It is that mixture in which the composition is uniform throughout. Such mixtures are also called solutions.Alloys like solder, steel, bronze, etc

Heterogeneous mixture

It is that mixture in which different components do not mix uniformly. In fact, most of the mixtures are heterogeneous. For example, gunpowder is a mixture of carbon, Sulphur, and potassium nitrate. We may mix any two or more substances which do not chemically react. Milk which is a mixture of water, fat, proteins and lactose is another example of this type of mixtures.

  • In a mixture, the properties of the matter remain unchanged.

Difference between Mixture and Compound

The components of the mixture may be present in any ratio.A chemical compound always contains the same elements combined together in the same fixed ratio by weight.
The components of the mixture can be seen lying side by side either with the naked eye or under a microscope. The components of the compound can in no case be seen separately.
A mixture may be homogeneous or heterogeneous in nature. Compounds are always homogeneous.
The properties of a mixture are midway between the properties of its constituentsThe properties of a compound are altogether different from those of its components.
The components can be separated by simple of mechanical methods.The constituents can not be separated by simple physical or mechanical means. They can, however, be separated by chemical methods.
No energy is evolved or absorbed when a mixture is prepared. Energy in some form, usually heat or electricity is evolved or absorbed during the formation as well as decomposition of a compound.
Mixture usually does not have a sharp melting or boiling points.A chemical compound melts or boils at a definite temperature.

Properties of matter

The characteristics that distinguish the one type of matter from another and make it with unique properties.There are two types of properties of matter:

  1. Physical Properties.
  2. Chemical Properties.

Physical properties of matter

The physical properties are those which define the matter without changing composition makeup. It does not include any chemical change.The overall composition of the material remains the same. Examples of physical properties include color, texture, flexibility, density, mass etc. We can observe or measure the properties with its two types. The two types of physical properties are

  • Extensive
  • and Intensive properties.

Intensive and Extensive Properties

Intensive Properties

  • The properties which do not depend upon either the size of the system or the quantity of matter present in it are known as intensive properties.
  • For example Pressure, temperature, density, specific heat, surface tension, viscosity, refractive index, melting and boiling points etc.

Extensive properties

  • The properties which depend upon the quantity of the matter present in the system.
  • For example Mass, volume, energy, enthalpy, work etc.

Chemical properties of matter

It is the ability of the matter to react with surroundings or other substances. During a chemical process matter composition changes. Chemical properties include a change in color, texture, flexibility, density, mass etc. Example: Chemical properties of a burning of a piece of paper define that how it reacts with the air. Factors that affect the chemical properties are:

  • Temperature
  • Pressure
  • Volume
  • The amount of substance (moles).

Examples of properties of matter

Physical properties Examples:

  • Boiling Point
  • Melting Point
  • Density
  • Refractive Index
  • Color
  • Odour.

Chemical properties Examples:

  • Cooking food.
  • Rusting of iron.
  • Smelling of Food.
  • Magnesium burns in air.
  • Iron reacts with steam.

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