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Covalent Bonds vs. Ionic Bonds: What's the Difference?

Edited by Huma Saeed || By Sumera Saeed || Updated on October 7, 2023
Covalent bonds involve sharing of electron pairs between atoms; ionic bonds result from the electrostatic attraction between oppositely charged ions.

Key Differences

Covalent bonds form when two or more atoms share electrons to achieve a full outer shell, leading to a stable molecule. Ionic bonds, on the other hand, are formed when atoms transfer electrons, creating positively charged cations and negatively charged anions that are held together by electrostatic forces.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023
The strength of covalent bonds arises from the shared electron pair between atoms, often resulting in the formation of molecules like water (H₂O) or methane (CH₄). In contrast, the strength of ionic bonds is derived from the electrostatic attraction between ions, as seen in compounds like sodium chloride (NaCl) or magnesium oxide (MgO).
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023
Covalent compounds typically have lower melting and boiling points compared to ionic compounds because the forces between molecules in covalent compounds are generally weaker than the ionic bonds in ionic compounds. Additionally, many covalent compounds are poor conductors of electricity, while ionic compounds can conduct electricity when dissolved in water or molten.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023
Polar covalent bonds occur when electrons are not shared equally between atoms, resulting in a molecule with a slight positive and negative end. In contrast, ionic bonds don't have a continuum of charge; one ion is positively charged, and the other is negatively charged.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 07, 2023
The nature of atoms involved often determines whether a bond is covalent or ionic. Nonmetals typically form covalent bonds with each other, while metals and nonmetals usually form ionic bonds when combined.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Formation Mechanism

Electron sharing between atoms.
Electron transfer from one atom to another.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Examples

H₂O, CH₄
NaCl, MgO
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Electrical Conductivity

Typically poor conductors.
Conduct when molten or in solution.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Melting/Boiling Points

Generally lower.
Generally higher.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023

Atoms Involved

Often between nonmetals.
Typically between metals and nonmetals.
Harlon Moss
Oct 07, 2023
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Covalent Bonds and Ionic Bonds Definitions

Covalent Bonds

Nonmetallic atoms connected by electron partnerships.
The bonds in carbon dioxide (CO₂) are covalent bonds.
Janet White
Oct 07, 2023

Ionic Bonds

Formed when atoms lose or gain electrons to achieve a full outer shell.
Calcium chloride (CaCl₂) is held together by ionic bonds.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 07, 2023

Covalent Bonds

A bond formed by the sharing of electron pairs.
The bond between hydrogen and oxygen in water is a covalent bond.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Ionic Bonds

Electrostatic forces holding together positive and negative ions.
Potassium fluoride (KF) has an ionic bond between potassium and fluoride.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 07, 2023

Covalent Bonds

A bond where atoms achieve full outer shells by sharing electrons.
The hydrogen molecule (H₂) is held together by a covalent bond.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023

Ionic Bonds

Bonds between metal cations and nonmetal anions.
The bond in magnesium oxide (MgO) is ionic.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Covalent Bonds

Chemical linkages involving shared electrons.
Methane (CH₄) has covalent bonds between carbon and hydrogen.
Huma Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Ionic Bonds

Bonds formed by the electrostatic attraction between oppositely charged ions.
The bond in table salt (NaCl) is an ionic bond.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Covalent Bonds

Atoms bonded by mutual electron sharing.
The bond in a chlorine molecule (Cl₂) is covalent.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Ionic Bonds

Chemical linkages resulting from electron transfer.
The bond between sodium and chlorine in NaCl is ionic.
Huma Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

FAQs

Are covalent compounds generally good electrical conductors?

No, covalent compounds are typically poor conductors of electricity.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

How do ionic bonds arise?

Ionic bonds result from the electrostatic attraction between oppositely charged ions.
Huma Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

What forms when atoms share electrons?

Covalent bonds form when atoms share electrons.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Can covalent bonds be polar?

Yes, polar covalent bonds occur when electrons are not shared equally.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

How does salt dissolve in water given its ionic nature?

The ionic bonds in salt are disrupted by the polar water molecules, causing it to dissolve.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 07, 2023

Can covalent bonds occur between identical atoms?

Yes, for instance, O₂ has a covalent bond between two oxygen atoms.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

What charge do atoms have after losing electrons?

They become positively charged cations.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

What role do electron pairs play in covalent bonding?

Electron pairs are shared between atoms in covalent bonds.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

What happens to electron clouds in covalent bonding?

Electron clouds overlap in the region between the atoms in covalent bonding.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Are hydrogen bonds a type of covalent bond?

No, while they involve covalently bonded hydrogen atoms, hydrogen bonds are weaker intermolecular forces, not true bonds.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 07, 2023

How do ionic bonds affect the properties of a compound?

Ionic bonds often result in compounds with high melting points and electrical conductivity.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 07, 2023

Are all bonds purely ionic or covalent?

No, many bonds have both ionic and covalent character, depending on the electronegativity difference.
Harlon Moss
Oct 07, 2023

Which compounds have higher melting points, ionic or covalent?

Ionic compounds generally have higher melting points.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

How do ionic compounds conduct electricity?

Ionic compounds conduct when dissolved in water or when molten.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023

Are ionic bonds formed between similar or dissimilar atoms?

Ionic bonds typically form between dissimilar atoms, especially metals and nonmetals.
Harlon Moss
Oct 07, 2023

What type of bond is present in pure metals?

Metallic bonds, which are different from covalent and ionic bonds.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Do ionic compounds form molecules?

No, ionic compounds form lattice structures, not distinct molecules.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Can atoms participate in multiple covalent bonds?

Yes, for example, carbon can form four covalent bonds.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023

Which elements typically form covalent bonds?

Nonmetals often form covalent bonds with each other.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 07, 2023

What determines the type of bond formed between two atoms?

Elements' electronegativity and their position in the periodic table influence the bond type.
Harlon Moss
Oct 07, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.
Edited by
Huma Saeed
Huma is a renowned researcher acclaimed for her innovative work in Difference Wiki. Her dedication has led to key breakthroughs, establishing her prominence in academia. Her contributions continually inspire and guide her field.

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