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Particle Model of Matter

This page is a recap of prior knowledge from KS3, it covers the three states of matter (solids, liquids and gases) and their properties. You need to have a good understanding of this topic to explain differences in boiling and melting points.

By the end of this page you should be able to:

  • Recognise diagrams of the three states of matter
  • Describe the three states of matter
  • Give the properties of each state of matter


In a solid the particles are ordered, this means they have a regular arrangement - just like the diagram on the right. They're held in a fixed position - i.e. they can't move. All they can do is vibrate around a fixed position. This is because there are strong attractive forces holding them in place.

The strong forces holding the particles in place gives solids a fixed shape/volume. It also means that the particles cannot flow over each other and that the solid form of a substance is normally the most dense.

Arrangement of Particles in a Solid


In a liquid the particles can move. The particles in a liquid are closely packed together and are in contact with each other but they lack the order of a solid. The particles are disordered and move at random. The forces holding the particles together in a liquid are strong but not strong enough to prevent them from moving.

The particles in a liquid can move, this means that they can flow and change their shape to match whatever container holds them. They have a fixed volume and are slightly less dense than a solid.

Arrangement of Particles in a Liquid


In a gas the particles are separated by large distances and move randomly. In this state the particles have enough energy to overcome the forces holding them in place and move freely.

The large distance between particles gives gases a low density The large distance between particles also means that they can be compressed (squashed) into a smaller volume. Or in more scientific language their volume changes with pressure. As the particles can move freely gases can flow and they fill whatever container they are placed in.

arrangement of particles in a gas

Summary Table

The table below is a summary of the properties of solids, liquids and gases.

State Shape Volume Density Motion
Solid Fixed Fixed High None
Liquid Matches Container Shape Fixed Slightly lower than the solid Move randomly
Gas Fills Container Varies Very low Move freely
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