What are the general properties of matter?

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

  1. What are the general properties of matter?

When we talk about the general properties of matter, we mean the set of physical characteristics or qualities possessed by objects provided with substance . This means that everything that exists in a concrete way and that we can touch or perceive directly is made of matter in one of its four states of aggregation: solids , liquids , gases and plasmas.

Despite being often composed of different chemical elements in different proportions and compositions, matter exists in a homogeneous way (its elements are not visible to the naked eye) 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:

  • General Properties . The characteristics that absolutely all the matter shares, without distinction of its composition, form, presentation or constituent elements.
  • Particular properties . Those characteristics that only concern a specific set of matter , that is, a particular type of object according to a common behavior, such as metals , or solids, organic compounds, etc.
  • Specific properties . This is the name of the characteristics that make it possible to distinguish a specific, specific substance from different ones, even though they may be in the same group of things. This means that they are the unique properties of that substance, such as water , alcohol, iron, chlorine, etc.

Next, we will review what the general properties of matter are:


Two atoms can never occupy the same space at the same instant of time , and that is why objects occupy a certain space, with a recognizable beginning and an end . This property is known as extension: the size of matter, the amount of space it normally occupies, and can be seen from its length, width or depth (the three dimensions).

The extension is measured in distance units, which in the International System are meters (m), centimeters (cm) or kilometers (km), depending on whether we are talking about a medium, small or large object.


The mass of the objects refers to the amount of matter that is gathered in them, that is, the amount of matter that compose them . This is determined by the inertia they present and the acceleration presented by 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 magnitude, measured in Newtons), or with the amount of substance (measured by moles).


The weight is the measure of the force exerted by gravity on objects. It is measured in Newtons (N) in the International System, since it is a force that the planet exerts on the substances we know , and is a vector magnitude, endowed with meaning and direction. Strictly speaking, this means that the weight of something depends only on its mass and the intensity of the gravitational field to which it is subjected.


This property allows bodies to recover their original form (shape memory) after being subjected to an external force that would force them to lose it (elastic deformation). It is a positive or negative property of matter, which makes it possible to distinguish between elastic and fragile elements , that is, between those that recover their form once the external force has been eliminated and those that fracture into smaller identical pieces.


Property of the bodies to remain in relative rest or maintain their relative movement of not having an external force acting on them. It can be defined as the resistance of matter to modify the dynamics of its particles , against movement and even temperature.

There are two types of inertia: mechanics, which depends on the amount of mass and the inertia tensor; and thermal, which depends on the heat capacity.


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


Hardness is the resistance exerted by matter against physical alterations such as scratching , abrasion or penetration. It has to do directly with the strength of the union of its particles . Thus, hard materials tend to be impenetrable and unmodifiable, while soft materials can easily deform.


The density refers to the amount of material present in a material , but also how joints are its particles. Dense materials are impenetrable and poorly porous, while dense materials can be easily traversed, as there are open spaces between their molecules .

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

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