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ChemWiki: The Dynamic Chemistry Hypertext > Analytical Chemistry > Chemical Reactions > Physical and Chemical Properties of Matter

Physical and Chemical Properties of Matter

We are all surrounded by matter on a daily basis. Anything that we use, touch, eat, etc. is an example of matter. Matter can be defined or described as anything that takes up space, and it is composed of miniscule particles called atoms. It must display the two properties of mass and inertia.


The different types of matter can be distinguished through two components: composition and properties. The composition of matter refers to the different components of matter along with their relative proportions. The properties of matter refer to the qualities/attributes that distinguish one sample of matter from another. These properties are generally grouped into two categories: physical or chemical.

 matter copy.jpg

Figure 1: Visual With Examples. Content from S.M.

Physical Properties and Changes

Physical Property: A physical property is one that is displayed without any change in composition. (Intensive or Extensive)

Intensive properties: A physical property that will be the same regardless of the amount of matter.  

  • density: \(\rho=\frac{m}{v}\)
  • color: The pigment or shade 
  • conductivity: electricity to flow through the substance
  • malleability: if a substance can be flattened
  • luster: how shiny the substance looks 

Extensive Properties: A physical property that will change if the amount of matter changes.

  • mass: how much matter in the sample
  • volume: How much space the sample takes up
  • length: How long the sample is 

Physical Change

Change in which the matter's physical appearance is altered, but composition remains unchanged. (Change in state of matter)

Three main states of matter are: Solid, Liquid, Gas

  • Solid is distinguished by a fixed structure. Its shape and volume do not change. In a solid, atoms are tightly packed together in a fixed arrangement.
  • Liquid is distinguished by its malleable shape (is able to form into the shape of its container), but constant volume. In a liquid, atoms are close together but not in a fixed arrangement.
  • Gas is made up of atoms that are separate. However, unlike solid & liquid, a gas has no fixed shape and volume.

Example 1: Physical Change

When liquid water (\(H_2O\)) freezes into a solid state (ice), it appears changed; However, this change is only physical as the the composition of the constituent molecules is the same: 11.19% hydrogen  and 88.81% oxygen by mass.


Figure 2: Ice Melting is a physical change

Chemical Properties and Changes

  • Chemical Property: Any characteristic that gives a sample of matter the ability/inability to undergo a change that alters its composition. Examples: Alkali metals react with water; Paper's ability to burn.
  • Chemical Change: Change in which one or more kinds of matter are transformed to new kinds of matter with altered compositions (or Chemical Reaction).

Example 2: Corrosion of Metals

Corrosion is the unwanted oxidation of metals resulting in metal oxides.

Magnesium + Oxygen → Magnesium Oxide

\[2 Mg + O_2 \rightarrow 2 MgO\]

Iron + Oxygen → Iron Oxide (Rust)

\[4 Fe + 3O_2 \rightarrow 2 Fe_2O_3\]

Using the components of composition and properties, we have the ability to distinguish one sample of matter from the others.


1. Milk turns sour. This is a ________________
  • Chemical Change
  • Physical Change
  • Chemical Property
  • Physical Property
  • None of the above
2. HCl being a strong acid is a __________, Wood sawed in two is ___________
  • Chemical Change, Physical Change
  • Physical Change, Chemical Change
  • Chemical Property, Physical Change
  • Physical Property, Chemical Change
  • None of the above
3. CuSO4 is dissolved in water
  • Chemical Change
  • Physical Change
  • Chemical Property
  • Physical Property
  • None of the above                      
4. Aluminum Phosphate has a density of 2.566 g/cm3
  • Chemical Change
  • Physical Change
  • Chemical Property
  • Physical Property
  • None of the above

5. Which of the following are examples of matter?

  • A Dog
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Ice Cubes
  • copper (II) nitrate
  • A Moving Car

6. The formation of gas bubbles is a sign of what type of change?

7. True or False: Bread rising is a physical property.
8. True or False: Dicing potatoes is a physical change.
9. Is sunlight matter?
10. The mass of lead is a _____________property.


1)chemical change 2) chemical property, physical change 3) physical change 4) physical property 5) All of the above 6) chemical 7) False 8) True 9) No 10) physical property


  1. Petrucci, Bissonnette, Herring, Madura. General Chemistry: Principles and Modern Applications. Tenth ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458: Pearson Education Inc., 2011.
  2. Cracolice, Peters. Basics of introductory Chemistry An active Learning Approach. Second ed. Belmont, CA 94001:Brooks/Cole, 2007.

Outside Links


  • Samantha Ma (UC Davis)

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Last modified
05:27, 27 Jul 2015



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