Physical Property Definition in Chemistry

Measuring cups
huePhotography / Getty Images

A physical property is a characteristic of matter that can be observed and measured without changing the chemical identity of the sample. The measurement of a physical property can change the arrangement of matter in a sample but not the structure of its molecules. In other words, a physical property might involve a physical change but not a chemical change. If a chemical change or reaction occurs, the observed characteristics are chemical properties.

Intensive and Extensive Physical Properties

The two classes of physical properties are intensive and extensive properties:

  • An intensive property does not depend on the amount of matter in a sample. It is a characteristic of the material regardless of how much matter is present. Examples of intensive properties include melting point and density.
  • An extensive property, on the other hand, depends on sample size. Examples of extensive properties include shape, volume, and mass.

Examples

Examples of physical properties include mass, density, color, boiling point, temperature, and volume.