What Is a Nonliving Thing?

Colin Kinnear/CC-BY-SA 2.0

A nonliving thing is no longer living or has never had the traits of life including respiration, reproduction, movement, metabolism, sensitivity and growth. Nonliving things do not require energy to continue existing in their current state.

Both dead things and objects that were never alive make up the category of nonliving things. Another characteristic living things tend to have is the ability to react to their environment. A living thing has sensitivity to the environment around it and can then react accordingly. Nonliving things such as rocks, sand and dead animals lack this ability entirely. Nonliving things that were never alive often lack organic components.

Carbon is the basis for all life on Earth, so if something is not made up of carbon and other organic components, chances are it is not a living thing. Locomotion, or movement, is also a key signature of life. Nonliving objects stay in one place and rarely move under their own power. A car, for example, requires external energy in the form of gasoline and a driver in order to move. They also do not tend to create energy unless energy is added into them. There are exceptions, so the entire picture is important when determining whether something is living or nonliving.