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Phase of Matter vs. State of Matter: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on January 20, 2024
Phase of matter refers to the physical form in which matter exists, often influenced by environmental conditions, while state of matter describes the distinct forms matter takes (solid, liquid, gas, plasma).

Key Differences

State of matter is a broader term that categorizes matter into four primary forms: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. Phase of matter refers to the specific physical forms that matter can take within these states under varying conditions.
Phases of matter can exist within the same state, like different crystalline forms of a solid. States of matter are distinct and represent a fundamental change in the matter’s physical properties.
State of matter changes occur with alterations in temperature and pressure, leading to transitions like melting or boiling. Phase of matter changes might occur within the same state, like the transition from graphite to diamond in solids.
In a single state of matter, such as liquid, multiple phases can coexist, like oil and water. Each state is characterized by specific properties like volume and shape retention.
State of matter is a fundamental concept in physics and chemistry, forming the basis of understanding matter. Phase of matter, while related, provides a more detailed perspective on how matter can exist in different forms within these states.

Comparison Chart


Specific physical form within a state
Broad category of matter’s form (solid, liquid, gas, plasma)


Graphite and diamond (both solid)
Ice (solid), water (liquid), steam (gas)


Can occur within the same state
Involves transition between different states


Different phases can coexist in a mixture
Different states usually don’t coexist


Influenced by environmental conditions and structure
Defined by general properties like shape and volume

Phase of Matter and State of Matter Definitions

Phase of Matter

Phase changes occur due to conditions like pressure and temperature within the same state.
Water turning to ice is a phase change within the liquid state.

State of Matter

The state of matter is determined by factors like temperature and pressure.
At room temperature, oxygen exists in the gaseous state.

Phase of Matter

A phase of matter is a form in which matter exists within a state.
Ice and liquid water are different phases of matter within the solid and liquid states.

State of Matter

Each state of matter has unique physical properties.
Solids retain a fixed shape and volume, unlike liquids and gases.

Phase of Matter

The phase of matter can be observed in phase diagrams showing pressure-temperature relationships.
A phase diagram can show when water transitions from liquid to solid.

State of Matter

Transition between states of matter occurs through processes like melting, freezing, or evaporation.
Boiling water changes from the liquid to the gas state.

Phase of Matter

Phases of matter include variations like crystalline or amorphous forms in solids.
Diamond and graphite are different phases of carbon.

State of Matter

States of matter are characterized by differences in particle arrangement and energy.
In the solid state, particles are closely packed and have low energy.

Phase of Matter

Phase of matter refers to the homogeneous part of a system separated by boundaries.
In a salad dressing, oil and vinegar represent two separate phases of matter.

State of Matter

A state of matter is a distinct form that matter takes, like solid, liquid, gas, or plasma.
Water exists in three states of matter: ice, liquid water, and steam.


What is a phase of matter?

A phase of matter is a specific form that matter takes within a state, like solid, liquid, or gas.

How many phases of matter are there?

There are numerous phases, depending on the material and conditions, like crystalline or amorphous in solids.

How many states of matter exist?

There are four primary states: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma.

What is a state of matter?

A state of matter is a broad category describing how matter exists, such as solid, liquid, gas, or plasma.

What is an example of a phase change?

An example is water freezing into ice, which is a phase change within the solid state.

Is plasma a common state of matter on Earth?

Plasma is less common on Earth but is prevalent in stars and interstellar space.

Can multiple phases exist in the same state?

Yes, multiple phases can coexist within the same state, like oil and water in a liquid.

What causes a change in the state of matter?

Changes in temperature and pressure typically cause a transition between states of matter.

How does pressure affect the state of matter?

Increased pressure can change matter from a gas to a liquid or solid, and vice versa.

Can phases of matter mix?

Some phases can mix, like different liquids, while others remain separate.

Are phase changes reversible?

Many phase changes, like melting and freezing, are reversible.

Can the same substance have different phases?

Yes, substances like carbon can exist in different phases, like graphite and diamond.

What is a phase diagram?

A phase diagram shows the conditions under which different phases of a substance exist.

How does temperature affect the state of matter?

Increasing temperature generally turns solids to liquids and liquids to gases.

What state of matter is fire?

Fire is a form of plasma, the fourth state of matter.

What is critical point in phase of matter?

The critical point is where the distinction between liquid and gas phases becomes indistinguishable.

What is sublimation?

Sublimation is the transition from solid to gas without passing through the liquid state.

What is the most abundant state of matter in the universe?

Plasma is the most abundant state of matter in the universe, especially in stars.

Do all substances have a liquid state?

Most substances have a liquid state under certain conditions, but some may sublimate directly from solid to gas.

What are amorphous solids?

Amorphous solids lack a well-defined crystalline structure, like glass or plastic.
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
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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