# Is the standard enthalpy of formation always non-positive?

If the standard enthalpy of formation is defined as

the energy change when 1 mole of a substance is formed from its elements in their standard states

and forming chemical bonds is an exothermic process, then does this mean all standard enthalpies of formation are non-positive?

Why do some compounds such as $\ce{NO}$, $\ce{NO2}$ have positive standard enthalpies of formation? Is this because to form $\ce{NO}$, we must first break the bonds in $\ce{N2}$ and $\ce{O2}$ (endothermic) to form the bond in $\ce{NO}$ (exothermic, smaller energy produced than the energy required to break the bonds of original standard state elements)?

• Well, you've pretty much answered your own questions. – Ivan Neretin Apr 23 '16 at 6:15

The net sum can be positive or negative, and it depends on what the reactants and products were. As you correctly said yourself, $\ce{NO}$ happens to have a positive standard enthalpy of formation because, as experimentally determined, more energy went into breaking the bonds of reactants than what we got back from forming the products.