Take propanoic acid for example. If I assign oxidation states to the 3 carbons in it using the idea that the more electronegative element gets all the electrons in the bonds it makes, the 3 carbons get -3( the one in the CH3), -2( the one in the middle), and +3( the one in the acid group).

Is this conclusion correct? The reason I doubt is that all the examples we've ever been given in class, we've assumed all the atoms of the same element to have the same oxidation state.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, the same element can occur in a compound in different oxidation states. Consider sulfur in thiosulfate en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thiosulfate Your teachers have just been keeping it simple so that your classmates understand the basic principle. $\endgroup$ – Waylander Mar 29 '19 at 12:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Waylander, thanks. Are my numbers of propanoic acid correct though? $\endgroup$ – Sal_99 Mar 29 '19 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ Oxidation numbers are not a very useful concept when it comes to organic compounds but yes, your numbers are correct $\endgroup$ – Waylander Mar 29 '19 at 13:07

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