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How to identify an ionic vs covalent compound?

September 14, 2019

There is a simple and easy way to identify ionic  versus compounds.



Ionic compounds can be of three types:


1. Metal + Nonmetal

To figure out whether an element is a metal or a nonmetal, look at the periodic table. Elements on the right of the staircase on the periodic table are metals. Elements to the left of the staircase on the periodic table are nonmetals. Hydrogen is a nonmetal even though it is located on the right side.

Examples: KCl, BaS


2. Metal + Polyatomic ion

Polyatomic ions are ions that are made of multiple atoms.

Students taking chemistry regent exam can find a list of polyatomic ions in Table E on the reference table.

Examples: KNO3, Mg(OH)2


3. Polyatomic ion + Polyatomic ion

Two polyatomic ions will also form ionic compounds. 

Examples: NH4OH


4. Polyatomic ion + Nonmetal

This is probably the most rare case of ionic compounds.

Example: NH4Cl


Covalent Compounds

Covalent compounds are easy to identify. It consists of two or more nonmetals.

Examples: CO2, SO4, C6H12O6


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