What is the Difference Between Representative and Transition Elements

The main difference between representative and transition elements is that representative elements, also known as main group elements, are found in the “s” and “p” blocks of the periodic table, whereas transition elements are located in the “d” and “f” blocks.

Representative and transition elements collectively form the essential building blocks of the periodic table. Both contribute distinct characteristics to the realm of chemistry.

Key Areas Covered

1. What are Representative Elements  
      – Definition, Features 
2. What are Transition Elements
      – Definition, Features 
3. Similarities Between Representative and Transition Elements
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Representative and Transition Elements
      – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: Representative and Transition Elements
      – Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

Representative Elements, Transition Elements, Transition Metals

Difference Between Representative and Transition Elements - Comparison Summary

What are Representative Elements

Representative elements occupy the “s” and “p” blocks in the periodic table. These elements showcase diverse chemical properties and play fundamental roles in the formation of compounds. The “s” block consists of groups 1 and 2, while the “p” block includes groups 13 to 18.

Group 1 elements, such as hydrogen and alkali metals like sodium and potassium, exhibit a strong tendency to lose one electron, forming positively charged ions. This characteristic makes them highly reactive and contributes to their common use in various industrial processes.

In the “p” block, elements like oxygen, nitrogen, and halogens are vital representatives. Oxygen, a nonmetal in group 16, readily forms compounds by gaining electrons, contributing to the formation of oxides. Nitrogen, found in group 15, often forms stable diatomic molecules and plays a crucial role in the composition of Earth’s atmosphere.

Compare Representative and Transition Elements

Figure 2: Representative Elements – Groups 1, 2, and 13 to 18

Halogens, located in group 17, include fluorine, chlorine, bromine, and iodine. They display a high reactivity and tend to gain one electron to achieve a stable electron configuration. Halogens commonly participate in chemical reactions, forming salts with metals and covalent compounds with nonmetals.

Transitioning to the “p” block’s higher-numbered groups, elements such as noble gases (group 18), including helium, neon, and argon, are known for their inert nature. They rarely engage in chemical reactions due to their stable electron configurations, making them valuable in applications like lighting and cryogenics.

What are Transition Elements

Transition elements, also known as transition metals, form a crucial group within the periodic table and are characterized by the presence of partially filled d orbitals in their electron configurations. The transition metals consist of groups 3 to 12, including well-known elements such as iron, copper, and zinc.

One distinctive feature of transition elements is their ability to form multiple oxidation states. This arises from the availability of variable numbers of electrons in their outer shell d orbitals, allowing them to participate in a variety of chemical reactions. This versatility makes transition metals essential in catalyzing many biological and industrial processes. For example, iron is a vital component in hemoglobin, playing a key role in oxygen transport in the blood.

Representative vs Transition Elements

Figure 2: Transition Metals

The complex ions formed by transition metals contribute to the vibrant colors observed in many transition metal compounds. This property is exploited in various applications, including the coloring of ceramics and glass. Transition metal compounds are also widely used as catalysts in chemical reactions due to their ability to facilitate reactions without being consumed in the process.

The magnetic properties of transition elements are another notable characteristic. Many transition metals exhibit magnetic behavior, and their compounds are often used in the production of magnets and magnetic materials. This is exemplified by the use of cobalt in the production of high-strength magnets.

Transition elements play a crucial role in the development of coordination compounds. These compounds involve the coordination of transition metal ions with ligands, forming complex structures with diverse properties. The study of coordination chemistry is integral to understanding the behavior of transition metals in various environments.

Similarities Between Representative and Transition Elements

  • Both representative and transition elements are found in the periodic table.
  • Both groups can form chemical compounds.

Difference Between Representative and Transition Elements


Representative elements are the elements located in the “s” and “p” blocks of the periodic table, whereas transition elements are the elements located in the “d” and “f” blocks.

Electron Configurations

Representative elements have electron configurations that follow a predictable pattern based on their position in the periodic table. Transition elements, on the other hand, have more complex electron configurations due to the filling of inner d orbitals.

Valence Electrons

While representative elements have their valence electrons in the outermost s and p orbitals, transition elements have valence electrons in both outer s and inner orbitals.

Chemical Behavior

Representative elements typically exhibit more pronounced chemical reactivity, readily forming compounds with distinct and predictable stoichiometry. Meanwhile, transition elements often display variable oxidation states and may exhibit a broader range of chemical behaviors, participating in redox reactions and forming complex ions.

FAQ: Representative and Transition Elements

What are examples of representative elements?

Helium, lithium, and beryllium are a few examples of representative elements.

Is Platinum representative or transition? 

Platinum is a transition element because it is located in the “d” block of the periodic table.

What is another name for representative elements?

Another name for representative elements is the main group elements.


Representative elements are located in the “s” and “p” blocks of the periodic table. From the highly reactive alkali metals to the noble gases that resist chemical interactions, these elements showcase the diversity inherent in the periodic table. However, transition elements are located in the “d” and “f” blocks. These elements share common features, such as the ability to display multiple oxidation states and form complex ions. Thus, this is the main difference between representative and transition elements.


1. “Representative Metals.” Byju’s.
2. “Transition Metal.” Encyclopedia Britannica.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Simple Periodic Table Chart-blocks” By User: Double sharp, based on File: Simple Periodic Table Chart-en.svg by User: Offnfopt – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “First row of transition metals” By Keresluna – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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