My teacher in college says that bonds between metals and nonmetals are ionic.

$ \ce{Metal - Metal} $ $\Rightarrow$ Metalic bond

$\ce{Non metal - Non metal}$ $\Rightarrow$ Covalent bond

I have to write about $\ce{CuCl2}$, and found in Wikipedia that if you subtract electronegativity you get what bond it is:

$$\chi (\ce{Cl}) = 3.16, \quad \chi (\ce{Cu}) = 1.90$$

$$\chi = 3.16 - 1.90 = 1.26$$

$\chi < 0.4 \Rightarrow$ covalent non-polar

$0.4 < \chi < 1.7 \Rightarrow$ covalent polar

$\chi > 1.7 \Rightarrow$ ionic

So it should be really a covalent bond. Which one is correct?

  • $\begingroup$ Cl and Cu are almost placed at the same side of the periodic table, so they are non metals. Hence as expected by your teacher and wikipedia, they will form covalent bond. Yes, I agree that Cu also acts as metal, as it may be transitional element. Anyway, bonds are just the names we give, if there is full transfer of electrons, we say it as ionic, if there is less transfer of electrons, we say it as polar covalent, if transfer of electrons is negligible or shared, we say it as non polar covalent. In reality no bond is ideally true, so it becomes convention to accept any of them which dominates. $\endgroup$
    – Sensebe
    Nov 14, 2013 at 14:22
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    $\begingroup$ @CURIE Copper is most definitely a metal, by any standard. You should not doubt it in order to fit an observation to a mere rule of thumb. $\endgroup$ Nov 14, 2013 at 23:17
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, if my comment is misleading or if it is wrongly predicted. $\endgroup$
    – Sensebe
    Nov 15, 2013 at 3:00
  • $\begingroup$ You should be very careful about extrapolating a physical meaning from comparing electronegativities because EN is essentially an arbitrary value where everything is defined relative to one another. EN is useful for nothing more than giving a reference for how that element is likely to interact with electrons. $\endgroup$
    – jheindel
    Sep 2, 2015 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ Related, with excellent answers: Metal Compounds that bond covalently $\endgroup$
    – feetwet
    Sep 12, 2015 at 16:42

2 Answers 2


You should be careful with simple associations such as "metal + non-metal = ionic bond". These tend to throw out the idea of understanding the chemistry involved in favour of rote memorization. Note for example that mixing caesium metal with gold will produce a salt instead of an alloy, caesium auride ($\ce{Cs^+ Au^{-}}$). Mixing barium metal and platinum can also produce salts, though their structures are somewhat more complex. One can also argue that there is significant ionic character in solid xenon difluoride, even though both atoms are non-metals.

The idea of using electronegativity to determine covalent/ionic character is also meant as a helpful guide, not as a strict rule with black-and-white limits. Firstly, all bonds have both ionic and covalent character; both concepts are an oversimplification, and in reality it is more correct to say that a bond has a certain contribution from each type of bonding. This means there is a smooth transition from compounds with mostly ionic character and those with mostly covalent character. Also, the inequalities you mention rely on Pauling electronegativities. Electronegativity is surprisingly still a hotly debated topic, as we continue to search more general, more fundamental and more precise ways of defining it. Pauling electronegativities are based on empirical thermodynamic data regarding bond energies after applying a certain equation that was "picked", not derived from scratch. The values are particularly poorly defined for transition elements, such as the $\ce{Cu}$ in your problem. You get some not-so-easy to explain situations, like $\ce{HF}$ as a gas that is a borderline ionic compound.

Finally, in light of these comments, the answer to your question is that bonding in $\ce{CuCl_2}$ (I'm pretty sure that's what you actually meant to write) has intermediate characteristics between a purely ionic and a polar covalent bond, with similar contributions (though pinpointing which is highest sounds like an exercise in futility). A good way to study it more in depth is to analyze Fajans' rules. After a little self-calibration, you can get a good feel for the degree of ionicity and covalency of a compound. Some further but less certain evidence (lots of caveats!) for the intermediate character of $\ce{CuCl_2}$ can be found by looking at the substances' melting and boiling points ($\pu{498°C}$ and $\pu{993°C}$ [decomposition], respectively, according to Wikipedia). They are both quite high compared to substances with polar covalent bonds (dimethylformamide boils at around $\pu{150°C}$), but rather low compared to substances with very ionic bonds ($\ce{NaCl}$ boils over $\pu{1400°C}$).


we aspect that the bond formed between Fe and Cl is ionic because Fe is metal and Cl is non metal but charged on Fe is +3 and on Cl is-1 so polarisation of chlorine ion by Fe+3 ion takes place but also with presence of d orbital in valence shell of Fe+3 ion polarisation also takes place to maximum extent and covalent charachter arises in ionic compound FeCl3.

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    $\begingroup$ This does not answer the question of what type of bond should be considered in copper(II) chloride. $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Nov 24, 2017 at 10:04

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