Difference between Charge and Mass

Both Charge and Mass are physical properties that every matter possesses in the universe. Charge is the property of matter by virtue of which it shows electric effect. Mass is the property which gives measure of substance of a body. Also, Charge is the property that results in the electrostatic forces. On the other hand, Mass is the property that results in the gravitational forces. Both Charge and Mass are scalar quantity having magnitude only. Consequently, both are added as real numbers.

In this article, we will discuss all the major differences between charge and mass by considering various parameters such as basic definition, representation, response to type of field, SI unit, types, etc. Let's start with some basics charge and mass so it becomes easier to understand the differences between them.

What is Charge?

Charge or electric charge is the property of subatomic particles of matter by which it exhibits the electric effect. The charge is denoted by symbol ‘q’ or ‘Q’, and is measured in Coulombs (C).

As we know from the electron theory of matter that every matter consists of small building blocks called atoms. Atoms consist of three elementary subatomic particles namely electrons, protons and neutrons. Electrons and protons can carry electric charge; hence they are called the particles of electricity.

However, electrons and protons carry different charges of same magnitude, i.e. an electron carries a negative charge while the proton carries a positive charge. These two types of charges result in the electrostatic forces. These electrostatic forces can either be of attractive nature or repulsive nature, depending on the type of charge. The electrostatic force will be a force of attraction if the two charges are of unlike polarity, i.e. positive and negative. If the two charges are of same polarity, then a repulsive force acts between them. The smallest charge exists in the nature is the change on an electron which is equal to -1.6 × 10-19 C.

What is Mass?

Mass is the most basic property of every matter in the nature. The mass is defined as the measure of amount of substance contained by a body. The mass of a body is usually denoted by the symbol ‘m’. The SI unit of mass is kg (kilogram).

For a given body, the mass is a constant physical quantity which does not change with the time and place. Although, according to Einstein’s mass-energy relation E = mc2, the energy and mass can be interchanged, i.e. if reduction in the mass of a substance releases a huge amount of energy, for example nuclear reactions.

Also, the mass is the factor which defines the weight of a body at place due to gravitation. The mass of an object is not affected by the arrangement of particles within the body.

Difference between Charge and Mass

Both charge and mass are the properties of matter, however there are several differences between them that are listed in the following table −

Basis of Difference Charge Mass
Definition The charge or electric charge is the property of subatomic particles by virtue of which the matter exhibits electrical behavior. Mass of a body is defined as the measure of amount of matter in the body.
Denotation Charge is denoted by the symbol ‘q’ or ‘Q’. Mass of a body is denoted by the symbol ‘m’.
Due to Charge is due to electrons and protons in the atoms. Mass of a body is due to protons, neutrons and electrons.
Polarity Charge may be positive, negative or zero. Where, the charge on electron is negative, while charge on proton is positive. Mass of a body is always a positive quantity.
Type of field Charge causes the electric field. Mass causes the gravitational field.
Dependency for existence Charge cannot exist without mass. Therefore, every charged body always possesses some mass. Mass can exist without charge. Thus, it is not necessary that a body possessing mass have any charge.
Quantization Charge is always quantized, i.e. it always exists as the integral multiple of electronic charge. That is, $$Q\:=\:ne$$ The quantization of mass of a body is not yet established.
Conservation Electric charge is always conserved, according to law of conservation of charge. Mass is not conserved. Because according to Einstein’s massenergy principle, some of the mass can be converted into energy.
Dependency on speed Electric charge on a body does not depend on its speed. According to theory of relativity, the mass of a body increases with the increase in speed.
Nature of force The electrostatic force between two bodies due to their charges may be attractive or repulsive. If the charges are unlike, then it is attractive, and if the charges are like, then the force is repulsive. The force between two bodies due to their masses is always attractive. This force is called gravitational force.
Emission of radiation An accelerated charge emits electromagnetic radiation. Mass does not emit radiation.
Unit of measurement Electric charge is measured in Coulomb (C). The unit of measurement of mass is kilogram (kg).


The most significant difference between Charge and Mass is that the charge on a body is responsible for its electrical behavior, whereas the mass of a body is responsible for its behavior in the gravitational field. Both charge and mass have only magnitude and no direction, hence both are scalar quantities.

Updated on: 22-Sep-2022

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