Difference Between Kinetic Energy and Potential Energy

Everything around us is energy. Energy is functionary and the basis of functioning as well.

Energy lays the capabilities of a thing, object or person to carry out work. There are various forms of energy.

Two such energies are Kinetic energy and potential energy. 

Kinetic energy is determined by calculating the speed velocity or mass of an object while it is moving. Potential energy is calculated by using the mass, gravity, height, and distance of an object.

Kinetic Energy vs Potential Energy

The difference between kinetic energy and potential energy is that energies can be transferred between objects with regards to kinetic energy and the same cannot occur for potential energy.

Kinetic Energy vs Potential Energy

Supporting with explanation, the key difference between kinetic energy is that it considers the energy of objects in motion and potential energy is that energy that an object has due to its positioning relative to other objects in the surroundings.


Comparison Table

Parameters of comparisonKinetic EnergyPotential Energy
MeaningThe energy of an object in motionStored energy in an object
EnvironmentRelated to other objectsNot related to the environment
FactorsVelocity( speed) and MassMass and Height/distance


What is Kinetic Energy?

Any object that is in motion irrespective if it is in motion horizontally or vertically does possess kinetic energy. Kinetic energy comes in forms such as translation energy, rotation energy, and vibration energy.

Kinetic energy is increased when an object is in motion and is maintained until the moving object changes its speed.

Also, kinetic energy is dependent on the other objects in close proximity as well. Kinetic energy is of translational, rotational, vibration, and translation kinetic energy.

For example, a moving car, dropping off a pen from the table, swinging pendulum, etc

kinetic energy

What is Potential Energy?

Potential energy is found in every object that has mass, gravity, velocity within the dimension of a field. Potential energy is that energy which is a stored form of energy found in an object when it is at rest.

Potential energy has three main characteristics.

 One is the shape of the object at rest; the second is the position of that object and third is the potential the object has to transform into kinetic energy.

Potential energy facts can be of elastic, nuclear, gravitational and chemical energy.

For Example, A water bottle of a table or a ball on a table are forms of potential energy. If the ball or water bottle falls from the table the potential energy transforms into Kinetic energy.

potential energy

Main Differences Between Kinetic Energy and Potential Energy


Kinetic energy is the type of energy, which a body possesses by the property of being in the motion. The potential energy is the type of energy, which a body possesses by virtue of its position, is known as the potential energy.

Example: A yo-yo ball has potential energy when not at motion. But when touched, its moves, The momentum that the yo-yo ball is the kinetic energy at its highest movement.
When the yoyo balls slow down, it means it is slowly coming back to its potential energy.


Taking the above yo-yo ball example, it doesn’t matter where the yo-yo ball is. It can be anywhere and yet have its potential energy at the state of rest.

The ball can be in the cupboard, ground, and ceiling or on the top of a car. It will still have the same energy. 

But in order for it to move, one needs a proper space and environment.

 Light, air, motion is needed. Hand, wind, strength or skill is needed.

A proper environment is needed to fuel motion in its kinetic state but it is not the same for potential energy. Potential energy is non-relative to the environment. 

For example, a tree branch has the potential energy to stay strong or to fall. It’s the environment that would decide whether the branch would fall or not.
The soil strength, wind, rainfall, plantation, etc would be the environmental factors.


Taking an example, let’s say we have a ball in our hands.  When the ball is swinging, at the highest point in the motion; kinetic energy transforms into potential energy by virtue of its height, its mass in correspondence to the state of the rest of that particular ball.

Taking another example, a waterfall has both the form of energy, at the top of the waterfall; the water is potential energy though it does have the weight and mass of water. That water of the top of the waterfall is not called waterfall.
Only when that lump of water flows, that potential energy translates to kinetic energy. But, potential energy cannot be transferred.
It can only be converted to kinetic energy


Factors affecting kinetic energy are mass and speed. The speed is crucial for kinetic energy to be tapped and understood and the speed is dependent on the mass of an object.

The formula of Kinetic energy i.e. Written as K. E is. M is mass and V is velocity or speed of the object.

The formula of Kinetic energy – KE= (1/2) mv2

The factors that affect potential energy is for sure mass. Mass by itself is energy.
The mass of the object is very important but as potential energy is calculated at the state of rest, the dimension, its height and the distance of its kinetics based on the force of gravity.

M means Mass, G means Gravity and H means height.

Formula of potential energy is W = m×g×h = mgh

Difference Between Kinetic Energy and Potential Energy


  1. https://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/resources/1572-what-is-energy
  2. https://www.eartheclipse.com/energy/kinetic-and-potential-energy.html
  3. https://www.physics-and-radio-electronics.com/physics/energy/kinetic-energy/types-of-kinetic-energy.html
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