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Difference Between Elements and Compounds

Praseeda Shirodkar Mar 14, 2019
It is necessary to know what the terms 'element' and 'compound' mean to differentiate between the two. This post provides some information and a table that enlists the differences between elements and compounds.
The element oxygen and the compound common salt (NaCl) are two good examples to describe the importance of elements and compounds in daily life.
Chemistry is the study of matter which is classified in many ways. One such classification is based on its chemical form that includes elements, compounds, and mixtures. Here, we shall discuss elements and compounds.

What are Elements?

Elements refer to those substances that are made up of one kind of atom. It can also be referred to as the simplest form of a chemical substance. Furthermore, there are more than 100 different chemical elements known, out of which 92 are the naturally-occurring ones, while the others are believed to be artificially developed through nuclear reactions.
The periodic table is a tabular arrangement depicting these known chemical elements which are enlisted based on their atomic numbers. Moreover, the characteristics and properties of elements vary.
They can exist in solid, liquid, or gaseous states. The number of protons, neutrons, and electrons an atom possesses, determines which element it is.
Moreover, they are known to exist either as atoms like Argon, or even as molecules like Nitrogen. Here the molecules referred to are the diatomic molecules.

Examples: Carbon with the symbol C, Sodium with the symbol Na, Chlorine with the symbol Cl, Tin with the symbol Sn, etc.

What are Compounds?

Compounds refer to those substances that are made up of two or more elements that are chemically bonded with each other. A substance containing more than one type of atom is a compound.
Examples: Sodium Chloride (or NaCl), Hydrogen Peroxide (or H2O2), Ammonia (or NH3), Baking soda (or NaHCO3), etc.

Elements Vs. Compounds


◼ They are pure chemical substances that comprise one or one kind of atom.

◼ They cannot be broken down into simpler substances by chemical means.

◼ Each element has a symbol by which it is represented.

◼ Each element has a unique atomic number by which it can be differentiated.
◼ Each element has different properties and characteristics.

◼ There are 118 known elements in the periodic table.

◼ These can be divided into metals, metalloids, and non-metals.

◼ Carbon (C), Sodium (Na), Chlorine (Cl), Tin (Sn), Gold (Au), Silver (Ag), Helium (He), etc., are some examples of elements.


◼ These substances are made up of two or more elements that are chemically combined in fixed proportions.

◼ They can be broken down into simpler substances by chemical means.

◼ Each compound has a formula by which it is represented.
◼ Each compound consists of elements that are chemically bonded in a fixed proportion, by which they can be differentiated.

◼ The properties of a compound differ from the properties of the elements that constitute it.

◼ There is no exact number as compounds are infinitely great in number.
◼ They can be divided based on the type of bonding i.e. ionic, metallic, and molecular

◼ Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), Water (H2O), Sucrose (C12H22O11), Baking soda (NaHCO3), Ammonia (NH3), Methane (CH4), and Ethanol (C2H6O) are some examples of compounds.
Both elements and compounds are equally important in our daily life and have industrial uses too.