Living Things vs. Nonliving Things

What's the Difference?

Living things and nonliving things are fundamentally different in nature. Living things possess characteristics such as growth, reproduction, metabolism, and response to stimuli, which nonliving things lack. Living things are composed of cells, whereas nonliving things are made up of atoms and molecules. Living things require energy to carry out their life processes, while nonliving things do not have this requirement. Additionally, living things have the ability to adapt and evolve over time, whereas nonliving things remain unchanged. Overall, living things exhibit a higher level of complexity and organization compared to nonliving things.


AttributeLiving ThingsNonliving Things
Ability to grow and developYesNo
Ability to reproduceYesNo
Ability to respond to stimuliYesNo
Ability to obtain and use energyYesNo
Ability to adapt to the environmentYesNo
Ability to moveYesNo
Ability to excrete wasteYesNo
Ability to dieYesNo
Ability to think and reasonYesNo
Ability to communicateYesNo

Further Detail


Living things and nonliving things are two distinct categories that encompass everything we encounter in the world. While living things possess certain characteristics that define life, nonliving things lack these attributes and are considered inert. In this article, we will explore the various attributes that differentiate living things from nonliving things, shedding light on the fascinating world of biology and the diversity of our environment.

1. Organization and Complexity

Living things exhibit a high level of organization and complexity. They are composed of cells, which are the basic structural and functional units of life. These cells work together to form tissues, organs, and organ systems, ultimately creating a complex organism. Nonliving things, on the other hand, lack this level of organization. They may have a certain structure, but it is not composed of cells or capable of growth and development.

Living things also possess a remarkable level of complexity in their internal structures and processes. They have specialized organelles within their cells that carry out specific functions, such as mitochondria for energy production or chloroplasts for photosynthesis in plants. Nonliving things, in contrast, lack these intricate internal structures and do not exhibit any specialized functions.

2. Growth and Development

Growth and development are fundamental attributes of living things. Living organisms have the ability to increase in size and complexity over time. They undergo various stages of development, from birth or germination to maturity, and may continue to grow throughout their lifespan. Nonliving things, however, do not grow or develop. While they may change in form or structure due to external factors, these changes are not intrinsic to their nature and do not involve an increase in complexity.

3. Reproduction

Reproduction is a crucial characteristic of living things. Living organisms have the ability to produce offspring, ensuring the continuation of their species. They can reproduce sexually, combining genetic material from two parents, or asexually, where offspring are produced from a single parent. Nonliving things, by definition, cannot reproduce. They do not have the ability to create new entities of their kind.

4. Response to Stimuli

Living things are capable of responding to stimuli in their environment. They have sensory organs and nervous systems that allow them to detect and react to changes in their surroundings. This responsiveness enables them to adapt to their environment, seek food, avoid danger, and interact with other organisms. Nonliving things, on the other hand, do not respond to stimuli. They lack the ability to sense or react to changes in their surroundings.

5. Metabolism and Energy

Metabolism is a vital characteristic of living things. It refers to the chemical processes that occur within an organism to maintain life. Living organisms obtain energy from their environment, either through the consumption of other organisms or through photosynthesis in the case of plants. They use this energy to carry out essential functions such as growth, reproduction, and movement. Nonliving things, however, do not have a metabolism. They do not require energy to sustain their existence or perform any functions.

6. Homeostasis

Homeostasis is the ability of living organisms to maintain a stable internal environment despite external changes. They regulate their body temperature, pH levels, and other physiological parameters to ensure optimal functioning. Nonliving things, on the other hand, do not possess this ability. They are not capable of maintaining a stable internal environment or adapting to changes in their surroundings.

7. Evolution and Adaptation

Living things have the capacity to evolve and adapt over time. Through the process of natural selection, organisms with advantageous traits are more likely to survive and reproduce, passing on these traits to future generations. This leads to the development of new species and the ability of organisms to adapt to changing environments. Nonliving things, however, do not evolve or adapt. They remain unchanged and unaffected by the forces of natural selection.


Living things and nonliving things are fundamentally different in their attributes and characteristics. Living things possess organization, complexity, growth, reproduction, responsiveness, metabolism, homeostasis, and the ability to evolve and adapt. Nonliving things lack these attributes and are inert entities that do not exhibit the characteristics of life. Understanding these distinctions allows us to appreciate the incredible diversity and complexity of the living world around us.

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