Physical vs Chemical Properties

Core Concept

In this tutorial on physical vs. chemical properties, you will learn about the differences between physical and chemical, and intensive and extensive properties, as well as physical and chemical changes.


The properties of matter refer to the features that differentiate one sample of matter from another. The properties of matter categorize into chemical and physical properties.

Physical Properties

Physical properties can be measured or observed without changing the composition (chemical nature) of matter. Moreover, they can be further classified into intensive and extensive properties.

Intensive Properties

An intensive property is a property of matter that does not depend on the size or the amount of matter that is present. It is used to identify a sample of matter because it does not change its property according to conditions. For example, melting point is a physical property, that is intrinsic.

Examples of physical properties, that are intensive properties:

  • Density
  • color
  • temperature
  • boiling point
  • melting point
  • odor
  • texture

Extensive Properties

In contrast, an extensive property is a property of matter that does depend on the size or the amount of matter that is present. Therefore, it’s considered additive. They are not useful in identifying a sample of matter as their properties can change according to conditions. Mass is a physical property, that is extensive.

Examples of physical properties, that are extensive properties:

  • volume
  • mass
  • size
  • weight
  • length

Physical Changes

A physical change takes place without any changes in molecular composition. The same composition of an element or compound is present throughout the changes. For example, when water freezes into ice, the liquid state of water went through a physical change. The physical form of liquid water is changed; however, the constituent molecules stay the same. 

Chemical Properties

Chemical properties describe the ability of a substance to undergo chemical change or reaction to form new substances. 

Examples of chemical properties:

  • acidity
  • oxidation states
  • heat of combustion
  • reactivity
  • flammability

Chemical Changes

To identify a chemical property, we must look for a chemical change. A chemical change results in a new matter of entirely different composition from the original matter. The elements and/or compounds rearrange or bonds break to form new compounds. For instance, burned wood becomes ash, carbon dioxide, and water, which are entirely new chemical compounds that did not exist prior to burning.

Physical vs chemical properties: Problems

State whether each of the following is a physical or chemical property, or a physical or chemical change.

  1. Iron reacts with sulfur to give heat and flames.
  2. The density of potassium carbonate is 2.43 g/cm3.
  3. MgSO4 is dissolved in water.
  4. Mixing baking soda and vinegar produces bubbles.
  5. The melting point of aluminum is 660.3°C.
  6. HCl is a strong acid.


  1. chemical change
  2. physical property
  3. physical change
  4. chemical change
  5. physical property
  6. chemical property

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