general properties of matter



We explain what the general properties of matter are, how they can be classified and their main characteristics.

The physical and chemical properties of matter depend on its composition

What are the general properties of matter?

When we talk about the general properties of the matter we refer to the set of physical characteristics or qualities that matter possesses, which is composed of some (or more than one) substance. This means that everything that exists and that we can touch or perceive is made of matter in one of its four states of aggregation: solid, liquids, gases Y plasmas.

Despite being often made up of different chemical elements in different proportions, matter exists in a way homogeneous (its elements are not distinguishable at first glance) or heterogeneous (its elements are easily perceived). And depending on its composition, its physical and chemical properties will also vary.

In that sense, we can talk about different types of properties of matter:

  • Extrinsic or general properties. They are those characteristics that absolutely all matter shares, without distinction of its composition, form, presentation or constituent elements. The general properties do not allow to differentiate one substance from another. Some extrinsic properties are mass, the volume, the weight and the temperature.
  • Intrinsic or specific properties. They are those that characterize each of the substances. These properties can be physical (qualities that matter possesses without changing its nature, such as its Boiling point or density) or chemical (qualities in which there is a change of composition in matter, as is the case of oxidation).

The general properties of matter, then, are:


Two atoms can never occupy the same space at the same instant of weather and, therefore, objects occupy a specific space, with a recognizable beginning and end. This property is known as extension: the size of the matter, the amount of space it occupies. East space or volume is represented by its length, width or depth and height.

Extension is measured in units of distance, area or volume, depending on the object under study. At International system, these units are meters (m), square meters (m2) and cubic meters (m3), respectively.


The mass of objects is the amount of matter that is gathered in them, that is, the amount of matter that makes them up. The mass is determined by inertia that they present or the acceleration that presents a force acting on them, and is measured in the International System with units of mass, such as grams (g) or kilograms (kg).

Mass should not be confused with weight (which is a vector quantity, measured in Newtons), nor with the amount of substance (which is measured in moles).


The weight is the measure of the force exerted by the gravity on objects. It is measured in Newtons (N) in the International System, because it is a force exerted by the planet on matter, and it is a vector magnitude, endowed with meaning and address. The weight of a body depends only on its mass and the intensity of the gravitational field to which it is subjected.


This property allows bodies to regain their original shape (shape memory) after being subjected to an external force that forces them to lose it (elastic deformation). It is a property that makes it possible to distinguish between elastic and brittle elements, that is, between those that regain their shape once the external force has been eliminated and those that fracture into smaller pieces.


Inertia is the resistance of matter to modify the dynamics of its particles in front of an external force. It is the property of bodies to remain in relative rest or maintain their movement relative when there is no external force acting on them.

There are two types of inertia: mechanical, which depends on the amount of mass, and thermal, which depends on heat capacity and Thermal conductivity.


Volume is a scalar quantity that reflects the amount of three-dimensional space that a body occupies. It is measured in the International System by cubic meters (m3) and is calculated by multiplying the length of an object, its width and its height.


Hardness is the resistance that the material exerts against physical alterations such as scratching, abrasion or penetration. It depends on the binding force of its particles. Thus, hard materials tend to be impenetrable and unchangeable, while soft materials can easily deform.


The density It refers to the amount of matter present in a material, but also how close together its particles are. Therefore, it is defined as the mass divided by the volume occupied by that mass. Dense materials are impenetrable and not very porous, while thin materials can be easily traversed because there are open spaces between their molecules.

The standard unit of measurement for density is weight per volume, that is, kilograms over cubic meter (kg / m3).

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