# What makes a molecule a polyatomic ion?

I checked the Wikipedia page, but it did not seem to provide a very intuitive explanation.

What distinguishes a molecule such that it behaves like a polyatomic ion? I understand that it is a covalent bond, but what distinguishes it from other covalent bonds that allow it to act like one element. Why does it have a charge, unlike many other compounds (ionic and covalent)?

A concrete example of the latter two processes is the autoionisation of water, which to a first-order approximation may be considered as $\ce{2H_{2}O <=> H_{3}O^{+} + OH^{-}}$. This is coincidentally an example (one of many) of an aqueous reaction involving covalency with a water molecule, addressing in part one of your other questions.