If water, $\ce{H2O}$ is a covalent compound formed by sharing of electrons, why is it said (in case of fuel cells) that formation of water from hydrogen and oxygen is a redox reaction (transfer of electrons, not sharing). This would make it an ionic compound.

Any insights? Note that, the concept of water being formed as a result of redox reaction is highlighted in fuel cells (which is the basic principle of fuel cells - generating electricity by exploiting this transfer of electrons).

I know how fuel cells work, and it is indeed a redox reaction; but my doubt is - can water be formed by both covalent/ ionic means? (In textbooks, or in exams when asked to identify bonding present in water); when both covalent and ionic type can be achieved in its formation? Is both "covalent" and "ionic" correct while describing the formation of $\ce{H2O}$ molecule?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Why can't you have covalent compound formed via redox reaction ? $\endgroup$
    – Babounet
    Commented Feb 7, 2015 at 16:29
  • $\begingroup$ Perhapse it is referring to the polar nature? (vs organic solvents which are nonpolar) $\endgroup$
    – Dale
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 18:25

1 Answer 1


Water is a covalent compound. But as we know no compound is 100% ionic or 100% covalent. Since the electronegative difference (END) between hydrogen and oxygen is very high it is a strongly polarised covalent compound therefore the electron cloud is shifted towards the oxygen atom and therefore water has a very high % ionic character.


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