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Difference Between Elements and Compounds, Types

The matter is distinguished into three main categories: compound, mixtures, and elements. Here we will focus on the differences between elements and compounds.


Elements are defined as a group of atoms that contain a similar number of protons in the nucleus of their atoms. It is a substance that is made of atoms that consist of the same number of protons in their nucleus. These elements are pure in their nature. A pure element is one that has the same atomic number or the similar number of protons in its nucleus. Till now a total of 118 elements have been discovered and they are positioned in a periodic table according to their atomic numbers.

Types of Elements

Elements are mainly divided into three types: Metals, non-metals, and metalloids.

Metals: The maximum number of elements in a periodic table are metals. These metals further include alkaline metals, transition metals, alkaline earth metals, etc. Metals are positioned on the left side of the periodic table.

Non-metals: Non-metals are situated on the right side of the periodic table and are very few in number. Noble gases and halogens are also included under non-metals.

Metalloids: These are those elements whose properties lie between nonmetals and metals. They are also called semimetals. On the periodic table, they are usually colored yellow and cover a staircase-like structure.

Examples of elements are hydrogen, iron, aluminum, nitrogen, oxygen, carbon, silicon, boron, sodium, etc.


Compounds are defined as substances that are formed when two or more elements mix chemically, keeping the ratio of mass constant. It contains two or more elements and various kinds of elements that occur in a constant ratio of atoms. The individual properties of elements diminish when they mix whereas new characteristics are formed of the new product.

Chemical Formula: Chemical formula is the symbolic representation of the compounds. It shows the proportion of atoms that are contained in a compound.

The chemical formula for normal salt is NaCl while the one for water is H2O. H2O of water represents that one molecule of water contains two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. Similarly, the chemical formula of salt 'NaCl' represents that one atom of sodium and one atom of chlorine is present in a molecule of sodium chloride.

Types of Compounds

Compounds are mainly classified into two subtypes: salts and molecular compounds.

  • Molecular Compounds - In these compounds, the atoms bind each other through covalent bonding.
  • Salts - The atoms in salt are bound together through ionic bondings.

Examples of compounds are as follows: salt, methane, nitrous oxide, ammonia, water, etc.

Difference between Elements and Compounds

Elements are substances that are pure in their nature and are composed of a single atom. Compounds are also pure substances that are composed of elements in definite proportions.
Till now 118 elements have been discovered out of which 94 elements are naturally occurring on Earth. Infinite number of compounds can be formed. There is no absolute number.
Elements can be categorized as metals, metalloids, and nonmetals. Compounds are divided into three categories:
Metallic, ionic, and molecular.
Elements are the single atoms. Hence they cannot be broken down. Compounds can be broken down using chemical reactions.
They are represented using numbers and symbols. They are represented using chemical formulas.
Examples: hydrogen, oxygen, copper, boron etc. Example: water, ammonia, sodium chloride.


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