In the case of this redox reaction:

$ \ce{ Cu SO_4 + Zn → Zn SO_4 + Cu} $

Is it correct to say that the sulfate reduces to the zinc? Or is it the whole molecule that is reducing? Or just the copper?

EDIT: ok, i think got it right:

$ \ce{ Cu^{2+}SO_4^{2-} + Zn → Zn^{2+}SO_4^{2-} + Cu }$

The oxidation number of copper goes down while it goes up for the zinc. That would make the zinc reduce the copper, right?


Yes, you are right. You may say that $\ce{Zn}$ reduces $\ce{Cu^{2+}}$. Another way to put it would be that $\ce{Zn}$ is the reducing agent in this reaction and $\ce{Cu^{2+}}$ is the oxidising agent.


Ignore the spectator ions and neutral species (the ions are hydrated).

LEO - loss of electrons is oxidation.
GER - gain of electrons is reduction.
RED CAT - reduction at the cathode.
AN OX - Oxidation at the anode.

RED CAT LEO goes GER. You are set for life.


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