How to Name Acids

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Acids release hydrogen ions when dissolved in water. Hydrogen (H) is usually the first element noted in a formula for an acid. Next noted are the one or two nonmetal elements in the acid. It's usually a pretty straight forward process to name or recognize the name or symbols for acids, but read on for a little extra detail on the subject.

  • Note that some molecular compounds use the same element symbols even though one may be an acid, and the other may be a gas. For instance, HCl can be either a gas or an acid. So, name acids by writing the notations of (g) for gas after the formula, like HCl(g), for instance.

  • See how HCl(g) represents the hydrochloride gas and HCl(aq) is the acid. The difference is noted by (g) or (aq). In water, the HCl(aq) forms H+(aq) and Cl-(aq) ions.

  • Write and name acids with H, hydrogen, as the first element.

  • Know that two kinds of acids exist, binary acids and oxyacids. The binary acids contain only two elements, hydrogen and a nonmetal. Oxyacids contain hydrogen and an oxyanion (an anion that contains a nonmetal and oxygen).

  • Name binary acids like this: hydro + the base name of the nonmetal then ic + acid, as in hydrochloric acid for HCl(aq).

  • Use the same pattern for oxyacids, as for binary acids--note hydrogen first in the formula. Use a chemistry table of polyatomic ions to find the names of common oxyanions to write the formulas.

  • Practice your new skills by writing acids that are oxyanions ending in "ate" with the base name of oxyanion then ic + acid. Name oxyanions ending in "ite:" base name of oxyanion then ous + acid. Examples: HNO3(aq) is nitric acid, and H2SO3(aq) is sulfurous acid.

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