The key difference from Lagrangian mechanics is that the Hamiltonian approach groups variables into pairs of coordinates called the phase space coordinates:This leads to having two times more unknown functions than in the Lagrangian. However, it also leads to a system of partial differential equations with only first order derivatives, which is nicer. Notably, it can be more clearly seen in phase space.

- generalized coordinates, generally positions or angles
- their corresponding conjugate momenta, generally velocities, or angular velocities