How to Name Oxyacids

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To be successful in chemistry it helps to memorize a few things, like how to name oxyacids, before the first day of class begins. It's helpful to memorize polyatomic ions (symbol, charge and name), oxidation numbers, the solubility rules, valences for transition metals, rules for naming ionic compounds and the rules for naming acids--both binary and oxyacids.

  • Know that acids are molecular compounds that release hydrogen ions (H+) when dissolved in water.

  • Turn to reference materials like a good chemistry textbook or science/chemistry web site to follow along and see lists of symbols and names for acids, as well as to gain a fuller understanding of acids.

  • Understand that oxyacids contain hydrogen, as do all acids, and an oxyanion, which is a negative ion that contains a nonmetal and oxygen.

  • Find common oxyanions listed in tables of polyatomic ions, which you can find in your textbook or online.

  • Note that the charge of the acid formula is neutral. So, the number of H+ in the formula adjusts to the charge on the oxyanion.

  • Notice the ending on the oxyanion, if it is 'ate' or 'ite.' The 'ate' oxyanions are pronounced and written in words: base name of oxyanion + ic, then acid. The 'ite' oxyanions: base name of oxyanion + ous, then acid.

  • Leave out the word "hydrogen" when naming oxyacids. But when writing the formulas, as is customary for all acids, begin the formula with H, as in HNO3(aq) for nitric acid, and H2SO3(aq) for sulfurous acid.

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