The difference is that living things, at least humans and animals, have conscious awareness, of themselves and/or of things/people around them. Non-living things do not. Plants do not of course have this consciousness, but they exhibit another quality of life that is different from non-living things, which is that they grow. It is not clear that animals other than humans have a conscious awareness of themselves. There is evidence of non human self awareness; however, it is far from a scientific 'fact' established that non-human animals have self awareness. Next, just exactly what consciousness is, in the first place, is far from established and accepted. Some classics: Ability to reproduce a comperable, such as a new born, which grows and then reproduces itsself. To consume and alter substances by incorporating them into the structure of the organizm. Ability to move, to relocate, without the direct influence of something else. Example, a rock which moves from the effect of the wind not the same as a child who moves from place to place when it crawls. Alteration of the environment by making tools or more of themselves, see Ability to reproduce....