Liquids form a free surface (that is, a surface not created by the container) while gases do not. The distinction between solids and fluid is not entirely obvious. The distinction is made by evaluating the viscosity of the substance. Silly Putty can be considered to behave like a solid or a fluid, depending on the time period over which it is observed. However Silly Putty is correctly termed a viscoelastic fluid.
Fluids display such properties as:
Solids can be subjected to shear stresses, and to normal stresses - both compressive and tensile. In contrast, ideal fluids can only be subjected to normal, compressive stress which is called pressure. Real fluids display viscosity and so are capable of being subjected to low levels of shear stress.
In a solid, shear stress is a function of strain, but in a fluid, shear stress is a function of rate of strain. A consequence of this behavior is Pascal's law which describes the role of pressure in characterizing a fluid's state.
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