I know of the Arrhenius definition, Bronsted Lowry definition and the Lewis definition for acids and bases but I don't know how to apply them on the spot. Also, some chemical formulas (such as acetic acid) throw me off since it has an OH at the end which causes me to think that it's a base when it really isn't.

Any tips/ways to identify if something is an acid or base simply based on its chemical formula?


closed as too broad by Todd Minehardt, A.K., andselisk, Tyberius, Mithoron Apr 1 at 18:46

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  • $\begingroup$ Sulphuric acid has even 2 hydroxy groups, so it is not the proper criteria. :-) The important thing is to understand properties of elements and particular chemical bonds, so you can determine, if it is donor or acceptor of $\ce{H+}$ or an electron pair. $\endgroup$ – Poutnik Mar 31 at 22:07

I was going to mark this as too broad, but it's not too broad, because the answer is quite simple: in general, you cannot determine the acid or base properties of a substance from its formula.

As a concrete example, consider the formula $\ce{C4H7NO3}$.

Here are two possible isomers for that formula: examples for formula

The left compound is an acid. The right compound is a base.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I would add, that acetic acid is an acid compared to water but is a base compared to hydrochloric acid. So the question is only relevant if we define the substance supposed to be neutral. $\endgroup$ – ParaH2 Apr 20 at 11:22

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