Understanding how to find displacement in physics is essential for anyone studying motion and position. Displacement is a fundamental concept that distinguishes itself from distance, and it plays a crucial role in describing an object’s change in position. In this article, we will delve into the concept of displacement, explore the displacement formula, and provide solved examples to help you grasp this concept effectively.

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Explaining the Term

Displacement is a term used to describe the change in an object’s position from its initial location to its final location. It’s important to note that displacement differs from distance, as it takes into account the direction of movement. In simpler terms, displacement considers where an object ends up concerning where it started and includes directionality.

Many people use displacement as an alternative to distance, but they are not the same. Distance refers to the length of the path taken by an object, regardless of its starting and ending points. On the other hand, displacement focuses on the change in position and includes information about direction.

Displacement Formula

To calculate displacement, you can use the following formula:

Displacement (D) = Final Position (𝑋𝑓) – Initial Position (𝑋𝑖)


  • D represents the displacement of the object.
  • 𝑋𝑓 represents the final position of the object.
  • 𝑋𝑖 represents the initial position of the object.

This formula enables you to determine how far and in which direction an object has moved. Displacement is a vector quantity, which means it has both magnitude and direction.

Solved Examples on Displacement Formula

Example 1: Radha’s Journey

Let’s consider an example involving Radha’s journey from Mumbai to Delhi. She first travels 350 kilometers to the north and then heads back 125 kilometers to the south. To find Radha’s total displacement, we can use the displacement formula:

D = 𝑋𝑓 – 𝑋𝑖

Here, 𝑋𝑖 is the initial position (0 km), and 𝑋𝑓 is the final position (350 km north – 125 km south).

D = (350 km N – 125 km S) D = 225 km N

Radha’s total displacement is 225 kilometers north.

Example 2: Ball’s Movement

Suppose you throw a ball 25 feet north of your dog, and it’s fetched by your brother, who is standing 5 feet south of you. To find the displacement of the ball, we can use the displacement formula again:

D = 𝑋𝑓 – 𝑋𝑖

Here, 𝑋𝑖 is the initial position (0 feet), and 𝑋𝑓 is the final position (30 feet south – 25 feet north).

D = (30 ft – 25 ft) D = 5 ft

The displacement of the ball is 5 feet south of its initial position.

Understanding Displacement in Physics

Displacement is a critical concept in physics, especially when dealing with motion in one dimension (1D). It helps us describe how an object’s position changes over time. When working with displacement, consider these key points:

  • Direction Matters: Displacement accounts for the direction of motion, distinguishing it from distance, which is a scalar quantity.
  • Vector Quantity: Displacement is a vector quantity because it has both magnitude (how far) and direction (where).
  • Choosing a Positive Direction: In problem-solving, selecting a positive direction is essential. It simplifies calculations and ensures consistency. Typically, right or upward directions are chosen as positive, but this can vary based on the problem’s context.


In summary, understanding how to find displacement in physics is crucial for accurately describing an object’s change in position, considering both distance and direction. The displacement formula, D = 𝑋𝑓 – 𝑋𝑖, allows us to calculate displacement effectively. It’s important to differentiate between displacement and distance, as they serve different purposes in physics. By mastering displacement, you’ll have a solid foundation for tackling more complex problems in the realm of physics and motion.


What is the difference between distance and displacement?

Distance is the actual length of the path traveled by an object, regardless of direction. Displacement, on the other hand, is the change in an object’s position from its initial point to its final point, considering both distance and direction. Distance is a scalar quantity, while displacement is a vector quantity.

Can you explain vector quantity in physics?

In physics, a vector quantity has both magnitude and direction. It represents physical quantities like displacement, velocity, and force. For example, velocity is a vector because it includes speed (magnitude) and a specific direction of motion. Vectors are essential for accurately describing various physical phenomena.

What are some real-life examples of displacement?

  • A person walking around a park and returning to their starting point.
  • A car driving from home to work and back.
  • A boat sailing across a river and ending up on the opposite bank.

How is displacement represented visually?

Displacement is often visually represented as an arrow. The arrow’s length indicates the magnitude of displacement, while its direction represents the direction of movement. The arrow points from the initial position to the final position, giving a clear visual understanding of the displacement.

What are the units of measurement for displacement?

Displacement can be measured in various units, depending on the system of measurement used. Common units include meters (m), kilometers (km), feet (ft), miles (mi), and even inches (in). The choice of units depends on the scale of the displacement, with larger distances often measured in kilometers or miles, while smaller ones may use meters or feet.

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