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Fundamental Particles vs. Elementary Particles: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 23, 2024
Fundamental particles are the smallest constituents of matter, while elementary particles, a subset, are indivisible and not composed of other particles.

Key Differences

Fundamental particles are the basic building blocks of matter, including quarks, leptons, and gauge bosons. Elementary particles are a specific group within these, considered indivisible and not composed of smaller particles.
All elementary particles are fundamental, while not all fundamental particles are elementary. For example, protons and neutrons are fundamental but not elementary, as they are composed of quarks.
Fundamental particles are key in the understanding of the universe's basic structure. Elementary particles, particularly those in the Standard Model, define the most basic aspects of matter and energy.
In fundamental particle physics, interactions between particles are explored, including those that are composite. Elementary particle physics focuses specifically on the study of indivisible particles and their roles.
The study of fundamental particles encompasses a broader range, including composite particles. Elementary particle study is focused on understanding the properties and interactions of the most basic, non-composite particles.

Comparison Chart


Basic building blocks of matter
Indivisible, most basic constituents of matter


Includes composite and non-composite particles
Strictly non-composite


Quarks, leptons, bosons, protons, neutrons
Quarks, leptons, gauge bosons

Field of Study

Broader study in particle physics
Focused study in particle physics

Role in Matter

Make up all matter, complex and simple
Constitute the simplest forms of matter


Explores interactions including composite particles
Focuses on interactions of indivisible particles

Fundamental Particles and Elementary Particles Definitions

Fundamental Particles

Fundamental particles are the smallest units that make up matter.
Quarks, as fundamental particles, combine to form protons and neutrons.

Elementary Particles

Elementary particles are indivisible and not composed of other particles.
Electrons are elementary particles with fundamental roles in chemistry.

Fundamental Particles

They encompass a range of particles with different properties.
Electrons are fundamental particles with a negative charge.

Elementary Particles

Elementary particles are studied to understand the fundamental forces of nature.
Gluons, elementary particles, are responsible for the strong nuclear force.

Fundamental Particles

Fundamental particles are studied in particle physics.
Discoveries in fundamental particles have advanced our understanding of the universe.

Elementary Particles

Elementary particles are central to the Standard Model of particle physics.
Neutrinos are elementary particles that rarely interact with matter.

Fundamental Particles

Fundamental particles are key in explaining the basic structure of matter.
The Higgs boson, a fundamental particle, is crucial in explaining mass.

Elementary Particles

They include particles like quarks and leptons.
The tau lepton is an elementary particle heavier than an electron.

Fundamental Particles

They include both composite and elementary particles.
Fundamental particles like protons are essential in atomic structure.

Elementary Particles

They form the most basic level of matter in the universe.
Quarks, as elementary particles, are the building blocks of protons and neutrons.


Is an electron a fundamental particle?

Yes, it is both fundamental and elementary.

What are elementary particles?

They are the most basic, indivisible particles in the universe.

What are fundamental particles?

They are the smallest constituents of matter, including both composite and elementary particles.

Are quarks fundamental or elementary?

Quarks are both fundamental and elementary particles.

Are protons elementary particles?

No, protons are fundamental but not elementary, as they're made of quarks.

How do fundamental particles differ from elementary particles?

Fundamental particles include a broader range, while elementary particles are specifically indivisible.

What types of fundamental particles exist?

Including quarks, leptons, bosons, and composite particles like protons and neutrons.

What role do fundamental particles play in physics?

They are key in understanding the composition and functioning of the universe.

Are all elementary particles part of the Standard Model?

Currently, the Standard Model includes all known elementary particles.

What is the Standard Model?

It's a theory describing the properties and interactions of elementary particles.

How are fundamental particles detected?

Using particle accelerators and detectors like the Large Hadron Collider.

Can fundamental particles change forms?

Yes, in processes like beta decay where a neutron changes into a proton, an electron, and an antineutrino.

Can elementary particles be divided?

No, they are considered the smallest, indivisible units.

Are gluons elementary particles?

Yes, they are elementary particles responsible for the strong nuclear force.

Are fundamental particles always stable?

Not always; some, like certain hadrons, are unstable.

Do elementary particles have mass?

Some do, like electrons, while others, like photons, do not.

What's the difference in studying fundamental vs. elementary particles?

Studying fundamental particles includes a wider range, while elementary particle studies focus on indivisible particles.

What is a lepton?

A type of elementary particle, which includes electrons and neutrinos.

How does understanding particles help in science?

It helps in comprehending the fundamental forces and building blocks of the universe.

What's the significance of the Higgs boson?

It's fundamental in explaining how particles acquire mass.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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