What is the difference between elements, compounds, and mixtures?

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llltkl's profile pic

llltkl | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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All matter can be classified as mixtures, elements and compounds.

Mixtures – two or more substances that are not chemically combined with each other and can be separated by physical means. The substances in a mixture retain their individual properties. Mixtures can be of homogeneous (existing in a single phase) and heterogeneous (existing in more than one phases) type. Solutions are a special kind of mixture where one substance dissolves in another.

Elements – simplest form of pure substance. They cannot be broken into anything else by physical or chemical means.

Compounds – pure substances that are the unions of two or more elements. They can be broken into simpler substances by chemical means. Compounds can be separated by chemical reactions into their elements and elements can be combined chemically to form compounds.

The difference among these three types of matter can be summarized in the following table:

                            Element           Compound           Mixture

                           -------------    ----------------       -----------------

Phase:                  single             single             single or multiple

Properties of      

Components:       retained            not retained     retained

Composition:       uniform     definite proportion   non-definite ratio

                                           of components

Separation by      

physical means:   single component         No            Yes


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pummy | (Level 1) eNoter

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Element: An element is the simplest form of a pure substance. All substance are ultimately made up of elements. An element may be defined as the simplest form of matter which cannot be decomposed by ordinary chemical means into simpler substances, nor it can be formed by the combination of other substances, or an element is a substance made up of atoms with the same atomic number.

Compound: A compound is a pure substance made up of elements. Thus, the gases oxygen and hydrogen combine to form water, a liquid compound. The solid potassium and the gases nitrogen and oxygen are found combined in potassium nitrate, a solid compound.

Mixture: most of the objects that we see around us are not pure substances ( like elements and compounds) but these are mixtures because they contain two or more substances in different proportions. A material obtained by mixing two or more substances ( elements or compounds) in any proportion is known as mixture.

parama9000's profile pic

parama9000 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Element- Substance with an element

Compound- Substance with 2 or more elements combined through chemical methods.

Mixture- Substances that retain their identity after mixing.

Yojana_Thapa's profile pic

Yojana_Thapa | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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  • It is a substance that is made up of only one kind of element.


  • Substance made up of two or more elements which are chemically combined.


  • It is a blend of two or more substances each of which retain their own identity.