Everyday force

Everyday forces are also called macroscopic forces, these are forces commonly observed in day-to-day life. This list is adapted from a popular introductory physics textbook:[1]

  • gravitational force: the pull toward the center of the Earth due to gravity (an apple falling from a tree)
  • normal force: the perpendicular force that comes from two surfaces touching (the upward force a person's hand feels when pressing down on a table)
  • frictional force: the resisting force from contacting materials or fluids trying to move with respect to each other (the resistance a person's hand feels when dragging it across a rough table)
  • air drag: refers to the force acting against the motion of any object moving with respect to a surrounding liquid or gas and is a type of frictional force (skydivers using parachutes to slow them down)
  • tension: describes the force felt from the end of a string, chain, or any similar object being pulled. Note: tension is not technically considered a "force" itself but is the result of a pulling force; however, tension is typically referred to as a force to simplify several factors when physicists and engineers model the world
  • spring force: The force from changing the shape of an object is often called the spring force. Usually this term is only used if the object springs back when it released; for more information please see elasticity vs plasticity
  • thrust: This force pushes jets and rockets forward
  • buoyant force: the force from the volume of a displaced fluid that pushes against the gravitational force.
  • electric and magnetic forces: These forces are fundamental forces

All of these forces are measured in newtons (N). As these forces push and pull on objects they affect the motion of the objects. These forces push through some distance in order to do work on a system.

To see how these everyday forces affect motion, please play with the simulation provided by the University of Colorado below.

PhET: Forces and motion

The University of Colorado has graciously allowed us to use the following PhET simulation. Please explore how forces interact with objects to create changes in motion.


  1. R. D. Knight, "A short catalog of forces," in Physics for Scientists and Engineers: A Strategic Approach, 2nd ed. San Francisco: Pearson Addison-Wesley, 2008, pp. 325–327

Authors and Editors

Allison Campbell, Braden Heffernan, Jason Donev
Last updated: September 17, 2016
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