# Bonds between metals and non-metals

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?

• 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. – Immortal Player Nov 14 '13 at 14:22
• @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. – Nicolau Saker Neto Nov 14 '13 at 23:17
• Sorry, if my comment is misleading or if it is wrongly predicted. – Immortal Player Nov 15 '13 at 3:00
• 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. – jheindel Sep 2 '15 at 20:25
• Related, with excellent answers: Metal Compounds that bond covalently – feetwet Sep 12 '15 at 16:42

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 $\pu{1400°C}$).