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Writing chemical formulae

The formulae of covalent compounds

To work out the formulae of covalent compounds, we need to use the valency of the atoms in the compound. This is because the valency tells us how many bonds each atom can form. This in turn can help to work out how many atoms of each element are in the compound, and therefore what its formula is. The following are some examples where this information is used to write the chemical formula of a compound.

Write the chemical formula for water

  1. A molecule of water contains the elements hydrogen and oxygen .

  2. The valency of hydrogen is 1 and the valency of oxygen is 2. This means that oxygen can form two bonds with other elements and each of the hydrogen atoms can form one.

  3. Using the valencies of hydrogen and oxygen, we know that in a single water molecule, two hydrogen atoms will combine with one oxygen atom. The chemical formula for water is therefore:

    H 2 O .

Write the chemical formula for magnesium oxide

  1. A molecule of magnesium oxide contains the elements magnesium and oxygen .

  2. The valency of magnesium is 2, while the valency of oxygen is also 2. In a molecule of magnesium oxide, one atom of magnesium will combine with one atomof oxygen.

  3. The chemical formula for magnesium oxide is therefore:


Write the chemical formula for copper (II) chloride.

  1. A molecule of copper (II) chloride contains the elements copper and chlorine .

  2. The valency of copper is 2, while the valency of chlorine is 1. In a molecule of copper (II) chloride, two atoms of chlorine will combine with one atom of copper.

  3. The chemical formula for copper (II) chloride is therefore:

    CuCl 2

The formulae of ionic compounds

The overall charge of an ionic compound will always be zero and so the negative and positive charge must be the same size. We can use this information to work out what the chemical formula of an ionic compound is if we know the charge on the individual ions. In the case of NaCl for example, the charge on the sodium is + 1 and the charge on the chlorine is - 1 . The charges balance ( + 1 - 1 = 0 ) and therefore the ionic compound is neutral. In MgO , magnesium has a charge of + 2 and oxygen has a charge of - 2 . Again, the charges balance and the compound is neutral. Positive ions are called cations and negative ions are called anions .

Some ions are made up of groups of atoms, and these are called compound ions . It is a good idea to learn the compound ions that are shown in [link]

Table showing common compound ions and their formulae
Name of compound ion formula Name of compound ion formula
Carbonate CO 3 2 - Nitrite NO 2 -
Sulphate SO 4 2 - Hydrogen sulphite HSO 3 -
Hydroxide OH - Hydrogen sulphate HSO 4 -
Ammonium NH 4 + Dihydrogen phosphate H 2 PO 4 -
Nitrate NO 3 - Hypochlorite ClO -
Hydrogen carbonate HCO 3 - Acetate (ethanoate) CH 3 COO -
Phosphate PO 4 3 - Oxalate C 2 O 4 2 -
Chlorate ClO 3 - Oxide O 2 -
Cyanide CN - Peroxide O 2 2 -
Chromate CrO 4 2 - Sulphide S 2 -
Permanganate MnO 4 - Sulphite SO 3 2 -
Thiosulphate S 2 O 3 2 - Manganate MnO 4 2 -
Phosphide P 3 - Hydrogen phosphate HPO 4 3 -

Questions & Answers

how do you translate this in Algebraic Expressions
linda Reply
Need to simplify the expresin. 3/7 (x+y)-1/7 (x-1)=
Crystal Reply
. After 3 months on a diet, Lisa had lost 12% of her original weight. She lost 21 pounds. What was Lisa's original weight?
Chris Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
many many of nanotubes
what is the k.e before it land
what is the function of carbon nanotubes?
I'm interested in nanotube
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
Ramkumar Reply
what is nano technology
Sravani Reply
what is system testing?
preparation of nanomaterial
Victor Reply
Yes, Nanotechnology has a very fast field of applications and their is always something new to do with it...
Himanshu Reply
good afternoon madam
what is system testing
what is the application of nanotechnology?
In this morden time nanotechnology used in many field . 1-Electronics-manufacturad IC ,RAM,MRAM,solar panel etc 2-Helth and Medical-Nanomedicine,Drug Dilivery for cancer treatment etc 3- Atomobile -MEMS, Coating on car etc. and may other field for details you can check at Google
anybody can imagine what will be happen after 100 years from now in nano tech world
after 100 year this will be not nanotechnology maybe this technology name will be change . maybe aftet 100 year . we work on electron lable practically about its properties and behaviour by the different instruments
name doesn't matter , whatever it will be change... I'm taking about effect on circumstances of the microscopic world
how hard could it be to apply nanotechnology against viral infections such HIV or Ebola?
silver nanoparticles could handle the job?
not now but maybe in future only AgNP maybe any other nanomaterials
I'm interested in Nanotube
this technology will not going on for the long time , so I'm thinking about femtotechnology 10^-15
can nanotechnology change the direction of the face of the world
Prasenjit Reply
At high concentrations (>0.01 M), the relation between absorptivity coefficient and absorbance is no longer linear. This is due to the electrostatic interactions between the quantum dots in close proximity. If the concentration of the solution is high, another effect that is seen is the scattering of light from the large number of quantum dots. This assumption only works at low concentrations of the analyte. Presence of stray light.
Ali Reply
the Beer law works very well for dilute solutions but fails for very high concentrations. why?
bamidele Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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The fundamental frequency of a sonometer wire streached by a load of relative density 's'are n¹ and n² when the load is in air and completly immersed in water respectively then the lation n²/na is
Mukesh Reply
Properties of longitudinal waves
Sharoon Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Siyavula textbooks: grade 10 physical science [caps]. OpenStax CNX. Sep 30, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11305/1.7
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