Classification of the Elements
Home Up Lewis Diagrams for Atoms Gaining and Losing Electrons Classification of the Elements

 

Classification of the Elements

The next thing in our review is to classify the elements into three groups. These three groups are: metals, nonmetals, and inert gases. Let's look at where these groups are located on the periodic table and correlate them with the ability to lose and gain electrons. Remember, these characterizations are oversimplifications.

 

First, the metals. They are found in the left, center and lower parts of the periodic table (red area). The metals are good at losing electrons, but they are poor at gaining electrons. The net effect is that the metals tend to lose electrons.

Second, the nonmetals. They are found on the top and right side of the periodic table (blue area). They include hydrogen. The nonmetals are poor at losing electrons, but they are good at gaining electrons. They gain electrons better than they lose them. So the nonmetals can be characterized by their ability to gain electrons.

Ability to Gain and Lose Electrons

     
       

G

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n

 
      *        
                          * *      
                            * *    

L

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                      *    

Third, the inert gases, or the noble gases, as they are sometimes called, are found in the far right column of the periodic table (white area). Sometimes these are included with the nonmetals because they are not metals. However their behavior and properties are different enough from the other nonmetals that we will consider them as a separate classification. They are poor at both losing and gaining electrons. Therefore, for the most part, they neither gain nor lose electrons.

We can also consider a fourth classification, the metalloids (marked with *). The transition from metallic properties and behavior to nonmetallic properties and behavior is not a simple matter of stepping over a line that can be drawn on the periodic table. In some ways germanium behaves like a nonmetal, and arsenic has some metallic properties. These elements along the dividing line between metals and nonmetals sometimes are put in their own classification of metalloids. The entire semiconductor industry is based on the awareness of the special properties of these elements. For our purposes it will be simplest to view these elements as marginal metals and nonmetals and realize that the dividing line between metals and nonmetals is not really as simple as we usually make it out to be. The metalloids are so-so at losing electrons and so-so at gaining electrons.

 

Practice

To summarize your understanding of differences between these classifications of atoms as they relate to gaining and losing electrons, please take a moment to do the following (same as exercise 3 in your workbook). Answers follow on the next page.

1.  Describe in your own words the nature of the following types of atoms:

metals -

metalloids -

nonmetals -

inert gases -

 

2.  Classify each of the folowing elements.

Na -

Fe -

F -

P -

Si -

Ar -

 

Answers

1.  Describe in your own words the nature of the following types of atoms:

metals - elements that lose electrons fairly easily (and do not gain gain electrons easily)

metalloids - elements that neither gain nor lose electrons very easily but can do both in moderation

nonmetals - elements that gain electrons fairly easily (and do not lose electrons easily)

inert gases - elements that find it hard to either gain or lose electrons

 

2.  Classify each of the folowing elements.

Na - metal

Fe - metal

F - nonmetal

P - nonmetal

Si - nonmetal (or metalloid)

Ar - inert gas

 

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