Matter is a tangible, touchable substance that can be seen, touched, tasted, and felt. Matter is opposed to the intangibles that exist because of the interactions with other forces of nature. In educational studies, dependent upon the course of study, matter may have slightly different meanings but they all begin with tangibility. In chemistry, matter is something that takes up space. It comes in three varieties, solids, liquid and as a gas.
Solid matter: The chemical composition of matter differs in its different forms. Solids are densely packed particles that retain this shape unless the temperature changes or some force changes its shape. A sandstone rock, as an example, is solid matter, but in comparison to other types of rock, its particles are not as tightly packed as are denser rocks. Its name suggests it is what it looks like upon close inspection, grains of sand nestling close together. Yet not so firm that it cannot be easily broken up if pounded with another rock.
Liquid matter: Liquid matter differs from solid matter in that it does not retain its shape. It sprawls all over unless contained in a container made out of solid matter. This distinction comes about because its particles are not bound close together as are solids. Rivers and oceans are liquid matter. Gasoline that runs your car and milk that you drink are both liquid matter. Liquids are the middle ground between solids and gases.
Gases: Gases are of no particular shape but they too occupy space. Fill a container with a gas and it will only hold a certain amount. Gas flows freely since there is nothing holding it back. An example is the air we breathe. Although it cannot be seen it is real. Blow up a balloon with air and when it has reached its capacity, it will pop. Too, under certain conditions gases can liquefy, or be forced into solids, such as carbon - in its gaseous state - being forced into beverages and into water.
What causes matter to be solids, liquids, or gases? This is what chemistry is all about. The arrangement of the electrons and protons in the atom and their attraction that brings on activity and change within the atoms creates change in form. An atom is the smallest particle of matter and is composed of a center, a nucleus with neutrons that that are neither positively nor negatively charged. Circling around this nucleus are positively charged protons and negatively charged electrons. When the number is equal, there is stability. An unequal number means activity in an effort to become stable.
Solids have less activity than the other two types of matter. Hard rocks, as an example, have comparatively little activity and consequently there is comparatively little activity going on and this gives them their density and their inactivity. Other solid matter have this quality but to a degree. Top soil is loose and viable and is not allowed to become complacent where there are earth worms continuously aerating and moving the particles about. It is the biological forces within the soil that activates it and makes it a superb growing medium.
Liquids have more stable atoms than gas but must be contained within solid shapes. Else they flow from high to low. This comes about because of the looser arrangement of their atoms. They are constantly flowing into each other and moving on. Gases are the freedom fighters in the atomic world. They go hither and yon since their atomic structure is not regulated and has no particular pattern of arrangement. This is a simplistic view of matter and since it is what the earth, the air and the watery parts are composed of, it is immensely more complicated than the simple statements I have made. The first step in learning anything is breaking it down into its simplest forms and learning from there.
When we can understand this process, we gradually learn of matter's interactions and its possibilities. Sometimes. To learn more research the internet sites. If you are new to chemistry, let the sites for children teach you the basics. In this way it becomes an adventure and not a chore.