Element vs. a Compound

Difference Between element and a compound

What is the difference between an element and a compound?

Chemistry is recognized as being one of the most complex and innovative branches of science. It is related to other branches, such as physics and biology. Most of the benefits that we now enjoy in terms of food, health and technology have come from chemistry. The study of chemistry leads to numerous career opportunities.

Students start their study of chemistry early in their school years. It is included in the science curriculum in very early grades at a rudimentary level and becomes increasingly more difficult as they progress through elementary, middle school and high school. They then have the choice as to whether or not they continue in this subject in their post-secondary studies. Anyone who has studied anything related to chemistry is well aware that this subject focuses on the formation of elements and compounds.

What are elements?

Elements are the most basic of chemical substances. They cannot be broken down any further. Each element comes from an atom. An atom is the smallest and the most basic particle of matter that exists. The nucleus of an atom contains protons and neutrons and is surrounded by a covering called electrons.

There are three types of elements depending on the physical and chemical makeup:

  • Non-metals
  • Metals
  • Metalloids

Because of this differentiation, there is a chart of elements with which all students of chemistry are very familiar. This chart was created by Dimitri Mendeleev, a Russian scientist and can be used for the separation and illustration of all the elements according to which type each one is. There are over 188 elements on this chart and they each have a symbol that consists of one or more letters. One of the most common elements is oxygen, which has the symbol O.

What are compounds?

Compounds, in chemistry, are substances that are formed from one or more elements that bond together through a chemical process. The atoms in each element change in this bonding process to create a new substance. Salts form from ionic bonds, molecular compounds form from covalent bonds and metallic compounds form from metallic bonds. Compounds can take different forms. Most of the time they are in a solid state, but depending on the temperature they can become liquids or gases.

There are also symbols consisting of letters and numbers to denote the names and characteristics of compounds. This system is known as the Hill system in which carbon and hydrogen elements are identified and then the other elements in the compound. Any compound that is organic contains both carbon and hydrogen. If it is inorganic it does not include either of these elements. Saccharin, an artificial sweetener, is one of the most commonly used compounds.

The difference between elements and compounds

Elements are basic and each one contains only one atom. They cannot be broken down any further. Compounds are substances made from elements that have bonded with each other. They can be broken down when they go through different chemical processes. Elements are represented by a letter and compounds are represented by a formula that consists of a series of letters and numbers. Elements have an atomic number and compounds have a chemical bond.


Elements and compounds play a significant role in human life. They are present in nature and have been used to create all kinds of materials such as food additives, cleaning materials and more. They have different components from each other and they work in different ways, but both are beneficial.



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