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What's the difference between bisulfate and "something" hydrogen sulfate?

Has there historically been a preference for one over the other?

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Nope, no rule, and again there is no difference, like your question about the names for iron oxidation states. The "bi" form is the older form, and the "hydrogen" form is now preferred, again because it more explicitly describes the form of the compound.

EDIT: Some additional detail was requested. When I say "preferred", I mean the name sanctioned by the IUPAC (International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry), also known as the systematic name, so called because the rules to form the name are "systematic"; i.e. consistent and clear. Older names are called common names, which were in used before the IUPAC. So "bisulfate" is a common anion name, while "hydrogen sulfate" is systematic.

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  • $\begingroup$ Could you elaborate a bit on whether there was an era in which one or the other was preferred? That way this question will have more value for future visitors. $\endgroup$
    – jonsca
    Aug 12, 2012 at 20:10

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