Difference between Element and Compound

Element and compound are two important classes of pure substance. An element is a pure substance that is made up of similar kinds of atoms. On the other hand, compounds are formed when two or more different types of elements are combined together in a fixed proportion. In this article, we will see the exact difference between element and compound.

An element is represented by its symbol while compounds are represented by their chemical formula. Each element occupies a certain position in the periodic table. Elements can’t be easily broken into a simpler form. They require a large amount of energy. The bonds in a compound can be broken by supplying a practical amount of energy such as heat from the fire.

Elements and compounds are pure chemical substances found in nature. A few examples of elements are Copper, Iron, Oxygen and, Hydrogen. Examples of Compounds include Water (H2O), Sodium Chloride (NaCl).

Element vs Compound

The differences between element and compound are summarised in the following table.

Basis of Comparison Element Compound
Definition It is a pure substance that is made up of the same kind of atoms. A Compound is a pure substance that is formed when atoms of different kinds of elements are mixed in a definite proportion.
Types Elements can be classified into metals, nonmetals, and metalloids. Compounds are classified on the basis of bonds present among the molecules. They can be ionic, molecular, or metallic.
Examples Some examples of the elements are copper, iron, and gold. A few examples of compounds are Sodium Chloride (NaCl), Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH), etc.
Representation Elements are represented by their symbols. For example, Iron is represented by Fe. Compounds are represented by their chemical formula. For example, Common salt is represented by NaCl.
Composition They contain only one type of atom each having its own atomic number. They contain different types of elements and these elements are present in a fixed ratio and held together by a chemical bond.
Possibility of breaking down They can’t be broken into a simpler substance by any chemical reaction. They can be broken into simpler substances by chemical reaction.

What is an Element?

An element is a pure substance that is made up of atoms of the same kind. An element can’t be further divided into simpler substances. Elements are the fundamental components that compose all the matter present in our surroundings. There are nearly 118 elements at present known to us, out of which 94 are naturally occurring elements while the rest of the 24 of synthetic elements.

Elements can also be defined as the species of atoms that have the same number of protons in their nucleus. One thing to be noted here is that although the atoms need to have the same number of protons they may have different numbers of neutrons. Atoms of the same element which have the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons are known as isotopes.

Elements are arranged according to the atomic number in the periodic table. Elements having similar property fall in the same group. According to Modern Periodic law, the properties of an element are the periodic function of its atomic number. Elements are represented by the symbols assigned by the IUPAC. For example, sodium is represented by Na, Copper is represented by Cu.

Elements can further be classified into Metals, Nonmetals, and metalloids. Metals are placed on the left side of the periodic table while non-metals are found on the right side of the periodic table. Metalloids occupy the middle portion of the periodic table.

What is a Compound?

A compound is formed when two or more elements combine together in a fixed ratio by mass. The compound thus formed has altogether different properties and the individual properties of the elements are lost.

The elements which are combined to form compounds are joined together either by a covalent or ionic bond. Different elements combine in various proportions to form a compound. A compound is represented by its chemical formula. A chemical formula gives information about the constituents of a compound and in what proportion the atoms are present in a compound. For example, water is represented by H2O which shows that two atoms of hydrogen combine with one atom of oxygen to form water. Similarly, Ammonia is represented by NH3 which shows that three atoms of hydrogen combine with one atom of nitrogen to form ammonia.

The smallest individual entity in which a compound can be broken is a molecule. Compounds can be broken since they are formed by different elements. Elements are considered pure substances because they are formed by atoms of a similar kind. On the other hand, Compounds are considered impure substances as they are formed by different kinds of atoms.

Compound and mixture are two different things, in compounds, the chemical mixing of substances takes place while in mixtures there is physical mixing of substances.


Elements are pure substances that are formed by the combination of the same types of atoms while Compounds are formed by the combination of two or more different kinds of elements.

Deepak Yadav
Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh


1. https://www.diffen.com/difference/Compound_vs_Element
2. https://byjus.com/chemistry/difference-between-element-and-compound
3. https://circuitglobe.com/difference-between-element-and-compound.html
4. https://www.toppr.com/guides/chemistry/difference-between-element-and-compound

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