I have seen in many organic reactions (such as esterificatiton) that sulphuric acid is added both as a catalyst and a dehydrating agent. What I don't get is exactly how this strong acid is able to dehydrate the solution full of water.

One explanation I've heard is that the acid protonates the water forming $\ce{H3O+}$ which thus "removes" the water. Is this the "dehydrating" process? In the esterification equilibrium system, would the protonation of water count as "removing" water and shift the equilibrium?

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    $\begingroup$ H20 has spare electron pairs which means it can act as a nucleophile. Protonation removes this nucleophilic ability so H2O cannot participate in the reverse reaction. $\endgroup$ – Waylander Apr 10 at 8:29

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