Why is Hydrogen a Nonmetal? (+ 3 Things to Know)

Hydrogen is a nonmetal because it has properties that are distinct from those of metals, such as a low boiling point, low density, and high electronegativity. 1 Additionally, it only has one valence electron and tends to form covalent bonds with other elements rather than metallic bonds. 2

Well, this was just a simple answer. But there are few more things to know about this topic which will make your concept super clear.

So let’s dive right into it.

Key Takeaways: Why is Hydrogen a Nonmetal?

  • Hydrogen is a nonmetal that has properties such as being a gas at room temperature, poor conductivity of heat and electricity, low melting and boiling points, and high reactivity
  • Although hydrogen can form metallic hydrides that have properties similar to metal compounds, it is not typically considered a true metal due to its distinct nonmetallic characteristics. Hydrogen’s position on the periodic table, close to metals, may have contributed to its association with them. 
  • While under high pressure, solid hydrogen exhibits some metallic-like properties, it is not typically associated with metallic properties in its natural state.

Which nonmetallic properties does hydrogen have?

Hydrogen is a nonmetallic element and has several properties that are characteristic of nonmetals. 

  • Firstly, hydrogen is a gas at room temperature, and its physical state can change with variations in temperature and pressure. 3 This is similar to other nonmetals like oxygen and nitrogen, which are also gases at room temperature. 4 5
  • Secondly, hydrogen is a poor conductor of heat and electricity. 6 This means that it does not readily allow the flow of electricity or heat through it, which is also a characteristic of nonmetals.
  • Thirdly, hydrogen has a low melting and boiling point, which means that it can easily change from a gas to a liquid or solid state with only slight variations in temperature and pressure. 7
  • Lastly, hydrogen is highly reactive, and it can form compounds with many other elements. 8 This property is also typical of nonmetals, which tend to form compounds rather than alloys. 9

In summary, hydrogen is a nonmetallic element with properties such as being a gas at room temperature, poor conductor of heat and electricity, low melting and boiling points, and highly reactive, which make it similar to other nonmetals.

Does hydrogen show metallic properties?

Hydrogen is not typically considered a metal and does not exhibit metallic properties. Metallic properties include high thermal and electrical conductivity, malleability, ductility, and a metallic luster, none of which are characteristics of hydrogen. 

Instead, hydrogen is classified as a nonmetal and has properties such as being a gas at room temperature, low melting and boiling points, and poor conductivity of heat and electricity. 10 11

However, under extremely high pressure, solid hydrogen has been observed to have some metallic-like properties, such as reflecting light and becoming a better conductor of electricity. 12 13 14

Nevertheless, these properties are still not fully understood and are not typically associated with hydrogen in its natural state.

Why is hydrogen placed along with metals?

Hydrogen is often considered to be an element with unique properties that make it difficult to classify as either a metal or nonmetal.

While hydrogen is typically considered a nonmetal, it can exhibit some properties that are similar to those of metals, such as the ability to lose or gain electrons to form ions. 15

Additionally, some metallic hydrides, which are compounds of hydrogen with metals, have properties that are similar to those of other metal compounds, such as being good conductors of heat and electricity. 16

Furthermore, hydrogen’s position on the periodic table, in the top left corner, places it adjacent to the metals, which may have contributed to its association with them. 

However, it is important to note that while hydrogen may share some properties with metals, it is not considered to be a true metal and is typically classified as a nonmetal.

Further reading

Is Hydrogen a Noble Gas?
Is Hydrogen an Alkali Metal?
What Group is Hydrogen in?
Why is Hydrogen in Group 1?
Is Hydrogen Reactive? 

About author

Jay is an educator and has helped more than 100,000 students in their studies by providing simple and easy explanations on different science-related topics. He is a founder of Pediabay and is passionate about helping students through his easily digestible explanations.

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  2. Ouellette, R. J., & Rawn, J. D. (2015). Structure of Organic Compounds. Principles of Organic Chemistry, 1–32. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-802444-7.00001-x
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  9. 3.6: Covalent Compounds – Formulas and Names. (2020, June 2). Chemistry LibreTexts. https://chem.libretexts.org/Courses/El_Paso_Community_College/CHEM1306%3A_Health_Chemistry_I_(Rodriguez)/03%3A_Compounds-How_Elements_Combine/3.06%3A_Covalent_Compounds_-_Formulas_and_Names
  10. Hydrogen explained – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). (2023, May 4). Hydrogen Explained – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/hydrogen/
  11. Gases. (n.d.). Gases. https://chemed.chem.purdue.edu/genchem/topicreview/bp/ch4/gases1.html
  12. Gregoryanz, E., Ji, C., Dalladay-Simpson, P., Li, B., Howie, R. T., & Mao, H. K. (2020, May 1). Everything you always wanted to know about metallic hydrogen but were afraid to ask. Matter and Radiation at Extremes, 5(3), 038101. https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0002104
  13. Eremets, M. I., & Troyan, I. A. (2011, November 13). Conductive dense hydrogen. Nature Materials, 10(12), 927–931. https://doi.org/10.1038/nmat3175
  14. Metallic hydrogen – Wikipedia. (2017, January 28). Metallic Hydrogen – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metallic_hydrogen
  15. Hydrogen ion – Wikipedia. (2014, October 1). Hydrogen Ion – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_ion
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