Science, Tech, Math › Science Metals Versus Nonmetals Share Flipboard Email Print ThoughtCo. Science Chemistry Periodic Table Basics Chemical Laws Molecules Projects & Experiments Scientific Method Biochemistry Physical Chemistry Medical Chemistry Chemistry In Everyday Life Famous Chemists Activities for Kids Abbreviations & Acronyms Biology Physics Geology Astronomy Weather & Climate By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Chemistry Expert Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Updated July 23, 2018 Elements may be classified as either metals or nonmetals based on their properties. Much of the time, you can tell an element is a metal simply by looking at its metallic luster, but this isn't the only distinction between these two general groups of elements. Metals Most elements are metals. This includes the alkali metals, alkaline earth metals, transition metals, lanthanides, and actinides. On the periodic table, metals are separated from nonmetals by a zig-zag line stepping through carbon, phosphorus, selenium, iodine, and radon. These elements and those to the right of them are nonmetals. Elements just to the left of the line may be termed metalloids or semimetals and have properties intermediate between those of the metals and nonmetals. The physical and chemical properties of the metals and nonmetals may be used to tell them apart. Metal Physical Properties: Lustrous (shiny)Good conductors of heat and electricityHigh melting pointHigh density (heavy for their size)Malleable (can be hammered)Ductile (can be drawn into wires)Usually solid at room temperature (an exception is mercury)Opaque as a thin sheet (can't see through metals)Metals are sonorous or make a bell-like sound when struck Metal Chemical Properties: Have 1-3 electrons in the outer shell of each metal atom and lose electrons readilyCorrode easily (e.g., damaged by oxidation such as tarnish or rust)Lose electrons easilyForm oxides that are basicFave lower electronegativitiesAre good reducing agents Metal: copper (left); metalloid: arsenic (center); and non-metal: sulfur (right). Matt Meadows, Getty Images Nonmetals Nonmetals, with the exception of hydrogen, are located on the right side of the periodic table. Elements that are nonmetals are hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, oxygen, sulfur, selenium, all of the halogens, and the noble gases. Nonmetal Physical Properties: Not lustrous (dull appearance)Poor conductors of heat and electricityNonductile solidsBrittle solidsMay be solids, liquids or gases at room temperatureTransparent as a thin sheetNonmetals are not sonorous Nonmetal Chemical Properties: Usually have 4-8 electrons in their outer shellReadily gain or share valence electronsForm oxides that are acidicHave higher electronegativitiesAre good oxidizing agents Both metals and nonmetals take different forms (allotropes), which have different appearances and properties from each other. For example, graphite and diamond are two allotropes of the nonmetal carbon, while ferrite and austenite are two allotropes of iron. While nonmetals may have an allotrope that appears metallic, all of the allotropes of metals look like what we think of as a metal (lustrous, shiny).