Example mechanism: mechanism Is that very simplified, or is that pretty much what is very likely happening at the molecular/atomic level when you do the reaction in real life? (Of course besides the free $\ce{H+}$, that is obviously hydronium, protonated alcohols, or the acid itself.)

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    $\begingroup$ You can write 8 mechanisms for both esterification and deesterification. As long as the mechanism is reasonable, it has a right to live. $\endgroup$ – MEL Science Oct 9 '17 at 8:16

That is the wrong question to ask. Mechanisms are putative pathways. Accepted mechanisms are mechanisms that we have not found evidence to refute. There is no way to determine whether a mechanism is the true mechanism.

  • $\begingroup$ This isn't exactly actual. There are methods that let analyse mechanisms directly. $\endgroup$ – Mithoron Jan 20 '18 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ You have a window but that doesn't rule out things that you aren't measuring. Your putative mechanism is consistent perhaps but not guaranteed to be correct. @Mithoron $\endgroup$ – Zhe Jan 21 '18 at 1:28

What Zhe has said is undoubtedly correct.

However, the currently accepted mechanism that is taught in lectures typically represents exactly our understanding of how a mechanism would work. There may be non-productive side steps, there may be backwards and forwards shuffling, but the effective pathway that a molecule takes will — under the assumption that the mechanism is correct at all — happen in pretty much exactly that order.


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