Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Chemical Suffixes
Name: Abby C.
Status: student
Age: 14
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2000


Question:
How, when ,why are is the root change in naming different elemnts in a formula. For the second element in a binary you are to ad "ide", explain how, when, why is "ite" and "ate" added to the root?


Replies:
These are some accidents of history, which if it were possible, most chemists would like to retract, because when the suffixes were applied to various substances the chemistry in many cases was not well understood. But we are stuck with them so here goes:

-ide usually means that the element is in its elemental anionic form. So we have chloride, bromide, ... , oxide, sulfide,..., nitride, phosphide... And there are no oxygens attached to the "-ide" element.

-ate usually means the element in to which the largest possible number of oxygen atoms are attached. So we have chlorate [ClO3^-1], sulfate, phosphate and so on. However, some elements were found that contained more oxygens than was first thought possible so the naming system had to be patched up the take into account. So we have PER-chlorate [ClO4^-1].

-ite refers to the oxygenated anion of an element that contains some intermediate number of oxygen atoms. So we have sulfite [SO3^-2] and chlorite [ClO2^-1], but then comes along [ClO^-1]. What to do? Invent a new prefix, so we get HYPOchlorite.

There are of course the corresponding -ic, and -ous acids, too!!

Vince Calder



Click here to return to the Chemistry Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory