Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Phase of Matter and State of Matter

Phase of Matter vs State of Matter

Matter is often defined in class as anything that occupies space (as in volume) and has weight (as in mass). Basic physics simply tells us about the primary states of matter, namely; solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. In many occasions, the term “phase” is also used similarly as the word “state.” However, the phases of matter and states of matter are two different things as they are used in different contexts. Phases of matter can be described depending on either the region of space to which there are uniform physical properties or the types of molecular movements observed at dissimilar temperatures.

As mentioned, there are four basic states; solid, liquid, gas, and then plasma. In some resources there are even more. The solid state of matter has its molecules tightly vibrating onto each other that they seem to be in a fixed state. Because of this, solid matter is described as rigid and takes a specific form or shape. For the liquid state of matter, the molecules are looser as compared to the molecules of solid matter. The molecules are just far enough apart that they slide against each other. This is the reason why liquids, although not having a definite shape, still take the form of its holding container. And so they have a specific volume. Gaseous matter has more loose molecules that are freely spread apart from each other. That’s why their volume and shape are not that specific. The newer state – plasma, is said to be situated only at the core and outer galactic atmospheres of the stars.

The phase of matter with respect to molecular motion, temperature or heat plays an integral role. For example, an ice cube (in its solid state) undergoes a phase change / transition as it melts and becomes liquid water. The molecules of the ice cube were heated enough to the point where their bonded position has been overcome thereby making it looser. Hence, it is now in its liquid phase. When more heat is present to evaporate the water, then it goes into its gaseous state as its molecules move more liberally.

The phase of matter can also be its region of space in a physical system. Let’s say there is a sealed plastic container with ice and water inside. This is a simple physical system wherein three phases are present: the cubes belong to one phase, water is the second phase, and then water vapor settling on top of liquid water is the third phase. The same is true with water and oil. These two substances have different degrees of solubility specifically broken further into the hydrophobic (non-polar) substance and the hydrophilic (polar) substance. Water is the polar substance that will immediately separate itself from oil (a non-polar substance). Both liquids have weak solubilities against each other placing them in different phases.


1.“States of matter” is a more specific and precise term than “phases of matter.”
2.State of matter is the state of a particular compound in a physical system whereas phase is a set of states within such a system.
3.Phases of matter can refer to the types of molecular motion.
4.Phases of matter can refer to a certain region in space.

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