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Displacement and Distance

  • The magnitude of displacement is equal to the minimum possible distance between two positions.
    So distance  |displacement|.
  • For a moving particle, distance can never be negative or zero while displacement can be. Zero displacement means that the body after motion has came back to its initial position.
    Hence, distance is always greater than zero, but displacement can be less than, equal to, or greater than zero.
  • For motion between two points, displacement is single-valued, while distance depends on actual path and so can have many values.

Some Important Notes

  • For a moving particle, distance can never decrease with time while displacement can. Decrease in displacement with time means body is moving towards the initial position.
  • In general, the magnitude of displacement is not equal to distance. However, it can be so if the motion is along a straight line without change in direction.
  • A particle speeds up, that is, the speed of the particle increases, when the angle between 30186.png and 30180.png lies between –90° and +90°.
  • The displacement of a particle is the unique path between the initial and final positions of the particle. It may or may not be the actually traveled path of the particle.
  • The displacement of a particle gives no information regarding the nature of the path followed by the particle.

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