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An important part of dealing with chemical compounds is knowing how to refer to them. Learn how to name all ionic compounds, including simple binary compounds, compounds containing transition metals and compounds containing polyatomic ions.

Naming Binary Ionic Compounds

Learning to name ionic compounds is both easy and hard depending on the complexity of the compound. Before we start, though, I just wanted to review a few terms. Remember that positively charged ions are called cations. Negatively charged ions are called anions. An ionic compound is a compound held together by ionic bonds. A simple binary compound is just what it seems – a simple compound with two elements in it.

Binary compounds are easy to name. The cation is always named first and gets its name from the name of the element. For example, K+ is called a potassium ion. An anion also takes its name from its element, but it adds the suffix -ide to it. So, Cl is called a chloride ion; O2- is an oxide ion.

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Take the binary compound NaCl. The Na+ is a sodium cation. The Cl is a chlorine anion, which gets the suffix -ide added to it. When you put them together, it becomes sodium chloride.

Here are some examples for you:Zn2+ is zinc. S2- is sulfide. Put them together for zinc sulfide (ZnS).Here’s another:K2 O is potassium oxide

Naming Ionic Compounds Containing Transition Metals

If an ionic compound contains a transition metal, use Roman numerals to denote which ion it is.
Ionic Compounds With Transition Metals

A transition metal is a metal that can use the inner shell before using the outer shell to bond.

These are the elements in the middle of the periodic table – things like zinc, iron and copper. Naming polyatomic ionic compounds that have transition metals in them is also fairly easy. It follows the same naming rules as the simple binary compounds, but with an extra rule added in. So, you still name the cation first, followed by the anion with the suffix -ide added to the end of it.The new rule is that transition metals form more than one ion, so this has to be accounted for in the naming. We do this by using Roman numerals to denote which ion it is.

The Roman numeral will equal the charge on the ion. For instance, Fe2+ is iron (II). Fe3+ is iron (III).When compounds are formed with these metals, the different ions still have to be accounted for. If I told you the compound was iron chloride, that wouldn’t give you the full story. You wouldn’t know if it was iron (II) or iron (III), which means you don’t know how many chlorine atoms are in the compound to bond with the iron, since two chlorines would be needed for iron (II) and three for iron (III).

If I instead told you that the compound was iron (II) chloride, you would know that it was Fe2+ in there, which means you have two chlorine atoms bonding with it. The formula would be FeCl2. If I said it was iron (III) chloride, the formula would be FeCl3.

Naming Polyatomic Ionic Compounds

A polyatomic ionic compound is a compound made up of a polyatomic ion, which is two or more atoms bonded together, and a metal.

Naming polyatomic ions is harder, but doable. First, name the cation, which is just the name of the element. Next, name the anion. This gets trickier.

Let’s first talk about a polyatomic ionic compound that contains oxygen. If the polyatomic anion contains oxygen, it is called an oxyanion. If it can form more than one form of oxyanion, it gets a suffix of either -ate or -ite. There are some common oxyanions that most people memorize.

Oxyanion Number of forms
ClO 4
NO 2
SO 2

If an oxyanion can form only two different kinds of oxyanions, the name of the ion with the greater number of atoms ends in -ate and the smaller number of atoms ends in -ite.For example:NO2 is nitrite, with the ending -iteNO3 is nitrate, with the ending -ateSO3 2- is sulfite, with the ending -iteSO4 2- is sulfate, with the ending -ateIf the ion forms four different kinds of oxyanions, then they get a prefix along with their suffix.

The first and lowest size ion gets hypo- as its prefix. The largest size ion gets per- as its prefix.These look like this.

ClO is hypochlorite. It has the hypo- prefix and the -ite suffix because it is the smallest.ClO2 is chlorite with only the -ite suffix.

ClO3 is chlorate with only the -ate suffixClO4 is perchlorate. It has per- for the prefix and -ate for the suffix because it is the largest.Notice they have the name of the central element plus the suffix or prefix.So, just to quickly review, if an anion has oxygen in it, it is an oxyanion. If there are only two forms of the oxyanion, it gets the suffix -ite for the smaller ion and -ate for the larger ion. Size in this case refers to the charge on the ion.

If there are four versions of the oxyanion, it gets the following by size:Hypo- and – ite for the smallest oneOnly -ite for the second oneOnly -ate for the third onePer- and -ate for the largest oneNow, let’s look at the polyatomic anion that has gained H+ – hydrogen ions. These are named by adding either hydrogen (if it added one hydrogen) or dihydrogen (if it added two hydrogens) in front of the name of the anion.HCO3 is hydrogen carbonateHSO4 is hydrogen sulfateH2 PO4 is dihydrogen phosphateAn example:KClO3. The cation is K, which is potassium. The anion is ClO3, which is an oxyanion that you saw previously was named chlorate. So, the name of this polyatomic ion is potassium chlorate.

Lesson Summary

A lot was covered in this lesson.

You learned that naming simple binary ionic compounds is easy. Name the cation first with the element name, then name the anion and add -ide to the end.Naming ionic compounds with transition metals isn’t too hard either. They are named like the binary compounds, with the cation first, then the anion with -ide added to it, but you have to take into account the variations of the metal ions. You do this by adding Roman numerals in parenthesis to the cation.

So, FeCl2 is iron (II) chloride.Naming polyatomic ionic compounds is the tricky one, and there are several rules depending on the different ions involved. When a hydrogen ion is involved, the compound starts with either hydrogen or dihydrogen, depending on if there are one or two ions involved. If oxygen is one of the anions, then it is an oxyanion. If there are only two forms of the oxyanion, it gets the suffix -ite for the smaller ion and -ate for the larger ion. If there are four versions of the oxyanion, the smallest gets the prefix hypo- and the suffix -ite.

The next smallest gets just the suffix -ite. The third one gets the suffix -ate. The fourth and largest oxyanion gets the prefix per- and the suffix -ate.

Learning Outcome

Following this lesson, you’ll be able to name simple binary ionic compounds, ionic compounds with transition metals and polyatomic ionic compounds.

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