The trace element contents of surface sediment samples collected from 295 stations and the grain-size parameters for 500 stations in the South Yellow Sea were analyzed and the distribution characteristics of trace elements contents, average grain sizes, differential functions of sediments in the South Yellow Sea and correlation analysis between trace elements and sediment types were studied. According to the differences of the material sources and correlation between elements and sediment types of sediments in the South Yellow Sea, trace elements have obviously different distribution patterns. The distribution of Sr clearly has something to do with the Yellow River,Yangtze River and biodetritus carbonate. Ba is supplied by the Yellow River and Keum River. Rb element in the eastern South Yellow Sea suffers from the Korean rivers influence. Co distribution reflects transporting direction of matter from the Yangtze River. The distributions of Ba and Cu are not obviously correlated with sediment types and not controlled by the sediment granularity. Sr,Co and Rb can discriminate sediment sources of the Yellow River,Yangtze River and Korean rivers.