I know the theoretical definitions and that they do not defer much, infact these terms are used quite interchangeably.

However, my chemistry teacher once taught me that Oxidation State of an atom in a compound is the average of the different Oxidation Numbers in the molecule. For example, in Acetic acid, the Carbon atom has oxidation numbers +3 and -3, so the Oxidation State of Carbon (i.e. the average) would be 0.

I've stuck by this for long, but yesterday I came across a question the answer to which implies that it is the other way round, as in ON is actually the average of all the OS of an atom. Several sites on the internet quote the same, and other references quote what my teacher taught me, which is the opposite.

What is the right answer?

  • $\begingroup$ There are no "right answer". Some teachers state that each atom has its own oxidation number or oxidation state. Other teachers admit that oxidation numbers can be averaged $\endgroup$
    – Maurice
    Commented Aug 30, 2020 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Maurice Okay, so you basically mean to say that it is the ON which is averaged and not the OS? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 30, 2020 at 17:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There's no difference between oxidation number and oxidation state. $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    Commented Aug 30, 2020 at 19:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Mithoron No it does not :( $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 31, 2020 at 6:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Mithoron Okay, thankyou for that. I will just assume that the question is wrong:) $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 31, 2020 at 6:27


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