Some students think that friction arises only when there is motion

Forces and Motion


Additionally, few students understand that the size of the friction force matches the externally applied force, up to a limit (for any given pair of surfaces).

Related to this conception is the idea that friction always hinders motion. When asked about the role of friction in a car, students often only explain its role in braking and struggle to unite friction with pushing the car forwards. 

Diagnostic Resources

The following worksheets may help to identify whether students hold this particular misconception.

For more information, see the University of York EPSE website.

Resource that Address This

  • Friction ((11-14)

    Source - SPT/ Fo02PN08

    This resource gives an accessible explanation of friction.

    View Resource
  • How can you tell if there is friction? (5-11)

    Source - SPT/ Mf03TL02

    An activity to explore that friction exists between all surfaces, moving and tending to move - slip and grip.

    View Resource
  • Friction between solid surfaces (11-16)

    Source - Practical physics/ Force and motion/ Friction, turning and other effects

    Part 4 is particularly relevant

    View Resource


The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Clement, J. () Students' preconceptions in introductory mechanics. American Journal of Physics, 50 (1),


    Review sheet

  • Osborne, R. () "Building on Children's Intuitive Ideas" in R. Osborne & P. Freyberg (Eds.), Learning in Science. Heinemann, Auckland.


    Review sheet

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