What Are the Similarities Metals & Nonmetals Have in Common?

By Angie Chipera; Updated April 24, 2017
Everything on Earth is made of nonmetal or metal elements

Metals and nonmetals differ from each other in more ways than they are similar. In most cases, their properties oppose each other. Their similarities exist in their most basic aspects, such as structure and the way they combine with other elements to form molecules.

Structural Similarities

Nonmetals and metals have the same atomic structure. Electrons follow paths called orbits around a central core called a nucleus. Atoms are stable when all electrons are paired, so most metals and nonmetals do not exist in nature in pure form.

Orbital arrangement remains the same. The formula, 2 times (n) squared, where n is the number of the orbital, defines the number of electrons that can exist at each level.

Ability to Form Molecules

Metals and nonmetals that have an odd number of electrons will attract other metals or nonmetals that need an electron. They share electrons, forming a molecule. For example, the nonmetallic molecule, water, contains two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen, and the metallic mineral galena contains one molecule of lead and one of sulfur.

Unique Identifiers

Whether the atom is a metal or a nonmetal, it contains a unique number of protons in its nucleus. Scientists use this unique number, called the atomic number, to assign the substance a place on the periodic table of elements.

Physical Properties

Metals and nonmetals have measurable or observable characteristics, like shape, color, density odor, taste, hardness, boiling point and melting point. Even when they combine with another substance and form a molecule, scientists expect certain characteristics to occur that distinguish that compound from another.

About the Author

New Mexico resident and novelist Angie Chipera has been writing since 2000. Her articles have appeared in "The Essence of Los Alamos" magazine, the "Los Alamos Monitor" newspaper and "Stories of Amazing Grace." Chipera holds bachelor's degrees in computer science and geology from the University of North Dakota, and belongs to Southwest Writers and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.