Wouldn't the distance be irrelevant as after they are attracted they will just close the gap? E.g. once 2 magnets are close enough to be attracted, isn't the distance irrelevant to the strength of the bond between the magnets as they will just become flush against each other, making the distance between any 2 magnets that are attracted to each other equal.

Or is it perhaps talking about the other groups stopping the hydrogen and other atom becoming close?


Of the following, the factor that has the least effect on the strenght of a hydrogen bond in a molecule is the

  1. type of atom to which the hydrogen atom is covalently bonded.
  2. distance that the hydrogen atom is from the atom on the other part of the molecule
  3. number of other hydrogen atoms atttracted to the atom on the other part of the molecule
  4. type of atom in the other part of the molecule to which the hydrogen atom is attracted

(answer is 3, hence 2 must have some effect).

  • $\begingroup$ To extend you magnet analogy: Try holding two magnets a few centimeters apart, where you can just start to feel the magnetic attraction. Then try holding them 1 millimeter apart. Is the attraction stronger when the magnets are separated by a shorter distance at any given time? $\endgroup$
    – airhuff
    Mar 8, 2017 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ You didn't account for the fact that the protons and electrons in different atoms repel each other. Your analogy is way over simplified. $\endgroup$
    – Zhe
    Mar 8, 2017 at 20:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The problem, as others have suggested, is that atoms aren't magnets that are free to snap to each other. Other forces and other interactions can and will hold them apart, and atoms also repel each other if they get too close (or else life would be in huge trouble because everything would collapse into a singularity). $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2018 at 13:50

1 Answer 1


The main attractive force between the nuclei and the electrons is electromagnetic, positive and negative attracting. When two atoms are "pushed" together each one shares its own electrons with the other one's nuclei, and they bond. So why wouldn't they nuclei just get as close to each other as possible, so that they each would feel as many electrons as possible? At the same time, the electrons are repelling each other, and the nuclei repel (same charges repel). The bond length is a function of this "equilibrium" that is reached between the attraction of the nuclei to the electrons, and the repelling of the nuclei and the repelling of the electrons. Therefore, if they begin to "close the gap" as you say, there will be more repelling than attracting, and they will move farther away from each other, and return to the lowest energy distance, the original bond length.


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