The term hardware refers to the physical components of a computer. On its own, hardware simply consists of various pieces of metal, plastic, and other materials. Hardware without software is rather like a car without a driver. Various pieces are designed to function in certain ways, whether to store, process, or transmit information, but hardware does not actually do anything until it is given instructions.
Software tells hardware what to do. On a hardware level, a computer is capable of storing zeroes and ones (binary digits or bits), moving streams of bits from one location to another, and performing a limited number of logical operations on bits. Software tells the hardware what to do with bits and interprets some collections of bits as text (in the case of word processing programs), other groups of bits as sound (as in music streaming or sound software), and yet other groups as images (when one streams movies or looks at photographs).
From a hardware perspective, a term paper, cat video, or song are simply a collection of ones and zeroes. Software reconstructs those bits into meaningful information and allows users to manipulate them.