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What are Derived Quantities in Physics?

What are Derived Quantities in Physics?

Defintion: Derived quantities in physics, also known as derived units or composite quantities, are physical quantities that are obtained through mathematical combinations of fundamental quantities. Fundamental quantities, such as length, mass, time, and electric charge, form the basis of measurement in physics. However, derived quantities, on the other hand, are derived from these fundamental quantities. Thus, they provide a deeper understanding of the relationships between different physical phenomena.

Additionally, derived quantities are important because they allow us to describe complex physical phenomena in a concise and meaningful way. By combining fundamental quantities in specific ways, we can derive new quantities that represent important concepts in physics.

Physics is a branch of science that seeks to understand the fundamental principles governing the natural world. In this pursuit, physicists often encounter quantities that are not directly measured but are derived from other fundamental quantities. Therefore, these derived quantities play a crucial role in explaining various physical phenomena and making predictions. In this article, we will explore the concept of derived quantities, their formulas, units, real-life examples, their importance in problem-solving, and their limitations.

Common Derived Quantities

There are many derived quantities but some of the most common ones include velocity, acceleration, force, energy, and power. We will now take a closer look at each of these derived quantities:


Velocity is a derived quantity that represents the rate of change of displacement. It is the ratio of the change in position to the time taken for that change. Mathematically, we can express velocity (v) as:

v = Δx / Δt

where Δx is the change in position and Δt is the change in time. The SI unit for velocity is meters per second (m/s).


Acceleration is a derived quantity that measures the rate of change of velocity. It describes how quickly an object’s velocity changes over time. We can calculate acceleration (a) by using the following formula:

a = Δv / Δt

where Δv is the change in velocity and Δt is the change in time. The SI unit for acceleration is meters per second squared (m/s²).


Force is a derived quantity that represents the interaction between two objects. It is the rate of change of momentum. The formula for force (F) is:

F = Δp / Δt

where Δp is the change in momentum and Δt is the change in time. The SI unit for force is the newton (N).


Energy is a derived quantity that represents the capacity or the ability to do work. It can exist in various forms such as kinetic energy, potential energy, and thermal energy. The formula for energy (E) depends on the specific type of energy we consider. For example, the formula for kinetic energy is:

E = 1/2 mv2

where m is the mass of the object and v is its velocity. The SI unit for energy is the joule (J).


Power is a derived quantity that measures the rate at which work is done or energy is transferred. It quantifies how quickly a certain amount of work or energy is expended. We can calculate Power (P) by using the formula:

P = W / Δt

where W is the amount of work done and Δt is the time it takes. The SI unit for power is the watt (W).

Derived Quantities Formulas and Units

In addition to the common derived quantities mentioned above, there are many others that have their own formulas and units. Here are a few examples:

Velocity formula and unit

v = Δx / Δt

Unit: meters per second (m/s)

Acceleration formula and unit

a = Δv / Δt

Unit: meters per second squared (m/s²)

Force formula and unit

F = Δp / Δt

Unit: Newton (N)

Energy formula and unit

E = 1/2 mv2

Unit: joule (J)

Power formula and unit

P = W / Δt

Unit: watt (W)

By understanding the formulas and units of derived quantities, physicists can analyze and interpret various physical phenomena accurately.

Examples of Derived Quantities in Real Life

Derived quantities are not only in the field of physics laboratories and equations. They are present in our everyday lives, often without us realizing it. Here are some examples:

Distance and time

When you calculate the speed of your car during a road trip by dividing the distance travelled by the time taken, you are using derived quantities. Moreover, speed is a derived quantity that tells you how fast you are travelling.

Weight and mass

Weight is a derived quantity that depends on an object’s mass and the force of gravity acting on it. By multiplying an object’s mass by the acceleration due to gravity, we can calculate its weight.

Work and force

Work is a derived quantity that represents the amount of energy transferred when a force is applied to an object and it moves. For example, when you lift a book off the ground, you are doing work against the force of gravity.

Speed and distance

When you calculate the average speed of a runner in a race by dividing the distance covered by the time taken, you are using derived quantities. The speed gives you information about how quickly the runner was able to cover the distance.

Importance of Derived Quantities in Problem-Solving

Derived quantities are essential in physics problem-solving for several reasons:

Simplifying complex calculations

By expressing physical phenomena in terms of derived quantities, complex calculations involving multiple fundamental quantities can be simplified. This simplification allows physicists to analyze and solve problems more efficiently.

Interpreting physical phenomena

Derived quantities provide meaningful interpretations of physical phenomena. They allow physicists to understand the relationships and interactions between different quantities and variables, leading to deeper insights into the workings of the natural world.

Predicting outcomes

Derived quantities enable physicists to make predictions about the behaviour of physical systems. By analyzing the derived quantities involved, scientists can make informed predictions about the outcomes of experiments or real-life situations. This predictive power is important in fields such as engineering. This is because we need to understand and anticipate the behaviour of complex systems.

Limitations and Assumptions in Derived Quantities

While derived quantities are valuable tools in physics, it’s important to acknowledge their limitations and the assumptions made when using them:

Ideal conditions vs. Real-world scenarios

Derived quantities often rely on idealized conditions and simplified models. In reality, physical systems are subject to various factors such as friction, air resistance, and external forces, which can affect the accuracy of calculations involving derived quantities. It’s important to consider these limitations and adjust calculations accordingly.

Sensitivity to Variables and Parameters

Derived quantities are sensitive to changes in the variables and parameters involved in their formulas. Small variations in the input values can lead to significant changes in the derived quantities. Thus, this sensitivity highlights the importance of accurate measurements and precise data in obtaining reliable results.

Uncertainties and errors

Like any measurement or calculation, derived quantities are subject to uncertainties and errors. Therefore, factors such as instrumental limitations, human error, and approximations can introduce uncertainties in the derived quantities. Additionally, scientists must be aware of these uncertainties and consider them when interpreting the results.


Derived quantities play an important role in understanding and explaining complex physical phenomena. By combining fundamental quantities in specific ways, physicists derive new quantities that represent important concepts in the natural world. These derived quantities simplify calculations, aid in interpreting physical phenomena, and enable predictions about real-life situations.

However, it’s important to be mindful of the limitations and assumptions involved when working with derived quantities. Despite these limitations, derived quantities remain invaluable tools in the pursuit of scientific knowledge and understanding.

Derived Quantities in Physics
Derived Quantities


  1. What are derived quantities?
    Derived quantities are physical quantities that are obtained through mathematical combinations of fundamental quantities. They provide a deeper understanding of the relationships between different physical phenomena.
  2. How are derived quantities different from fundamental quantities?
    Fundamental quantities are the basic units of measurement in physics. On the other hand, derived quantities are due to the combination of fundamental quantities in specific ways.
  3. Can derived quantities be negative?
    Yes, derived quantities can have negative values. Negative values indicate a change in the direction or orientation of the physical phenomenon that we measure.
  4. Are derived quantities used only in physics?
    Derived quantities are primarily used in physics. However, we can apply them in other scientific disciplines and real-life situations, where there is involvement of mathematical modelling and analysis.
  5. What are some commonly derived quantities in everyday life?
    Some commonly derived quantities encountered in everyday life include speed, weight, work, and power. These quantities help us understand and measure various aspects of our surroundings and interactions with the physical world.

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Fundamental Quantities in Physics