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Covalent vs. Ionic: What's the Difference?

Edited by Huma Saeed || By Sumera Saeed || Updated on October 26, 2023
Covalent bonds involve the sharing of electrons; ionic bonds result from the transfer of electrons.

Key Differences

Covalent bonds are characterized by atoms sharing electrons to achieve stability, usually between two non-metals. On the contrary, ionic bonds are formed when one atom donates an electron to another atom, typically between a metal and a non-metal.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 23, 2023
In a covalent bond, the bonded atoms have a shared electron pair, creating a strong link between them. In ionic bonding, the atom that loses an electron becomes a positive ion (cation), and the one that gains an electron becomes a negative ion (anion).
Sumera Saeed
Oct 23, 2023
Covalent compounds often have lower melting and boiling points compared to ionic compounds. This is because covalent compounds consist of individual molecules, while ionic compounds form a lattice structure with strong electrostatic forces.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 23, 2023
Due to their lattice structure, ionic compounds generally conduct electricity when dissolved in water or melted. Covalent compounds, however, often don't conduct electricity as they don't have free-moving charged particles.
Harlon Moss
Oct 23, 2023
Covalent compounds can be formed in various shapes based on the number of shared electron pairs. Ionic compounds, in contrast, usually organize in a regular repeating pattern due to the attraction between oppositely charged ions.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 23, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Formation Mechanism

Involves sharing of electrons.
Involves transfer of electrons.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 23, 2023

Commonly Found Between

Non-metals.
Metal and non-metal.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 23, 2023

Conductivity

Generally non-conductive.
Conductive when molten or in solution.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 23, 2023

Melting and Boiling Points

Typically lower.
Typically higher.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 23, 2023

Structural Form

Individual molecules with various shapes.
Lattice structure with repeating pattern.
Janet White
Oct 23, 2023
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Covalent and Ionic Definitions

Covalent

Pertaining to molecules formed by covalent bonds.
Methane is a covalent compound formed by carbon and hydrogen.
Janet White
Oct 23, 2023

Ionic

Characterized by the formation or presence of ions.
In an ionic compound, cations and anions are held together by electrostatic forces.
Harlon Moss
Oct 23, 2023

Covalent

A bond formed by the sharing of electrons between atoms.
Water (H₂O) has a covalent bond between hydrogen and oxygen atoms.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 23, 2023

Ionic

Relating to ions or the phenomenon of ionization.
Salt dissolved in water undergoes ionic dissociation.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 23, 2023

Covalent

Denoting elements or compounds exhibiting covalent bonding.
Organic compounds primarily exhibit covalent characteristics.
Huma Saeed
Oct 23, 2023

Ionic

A bond formed through the electrostatic attraction between oppositely charged ions.
Sodium chloride (NaCl) forms an ionic bond between sodium and chlorine.
Huma Saeed
Oct 23, 2023

Covalent

Of or relating to a bond where atoms share electron pairs.
The covalent nature of the bond gives stability to the molecule.
Sara Rehman
Oct 23, 2023

Ionic

Denoting compounds or bonds formed by the transfer of electrons.
Calcium oxide (CaO) exhibits an ionic bond with the transfer of electrons.
Janet White
Oct 23, 2023

Covalent

Characterized by electron sharing between two non-metallic elements.
The bond in chlorine gas (Cl₂) is covalent as both atoms share electrons.
Janet White
Oct 23, 2023

Ionic

Of or relating to a bond where atoms transfer electrons, resulting in charged ions.
The strong ionic attraction gives the compound high melting and boiling points.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 23, 2023

Covalent

The number of electron pairs an atom can share with other atoms.
Sumera Saeed
Jul 28, 2016

Ionic

Of or relating to Ionia or the Ionians.
Sumera Saeed
Jul 28, 2016

Covalent

(chemistry) Containing or characterized by a covalent bond.
Sumera Saeed
Jul 28, 2016

Covalent

Of or relating to or characterized by covalence;
Covalent bond
Sumera Saeed
Jul 28, 2016

FAQs

Why don't covalent compounds conduct electricity?

They usually lack free-moving charged particles essential for conduction.
Sara Rehman
Oct 23, 2023

What's the main difference between covalent and ionic bonds?

Covalent bonds involve electron sharing; ionic bonds involve electron transfer.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 23, 2023

Are covalent bonds stronger than ionic ones?

It depends on the specific compounds; some covalent bonds can be very strong, while others might be weaker than certain ionic bonds.
Janet White
Oct 23, 2023

What determines the shape of a covalent molecule?

The number of shared electron pairs and electron repulsions determine the shape.
Janet White
Oct 23, 2023

Can covalent compounds be solid?

Yes, many organic compounds with covalent bonds are solid at room temperature.
Harlon Moss
Oct 23, 2023

Can covalent bonds occur between the same elements?

Yes, like in oxygen (O₂) or nitrogen (N₂) where the same atoms share electrons.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 23, 2023

How do metallic bonds differ from ionic and covalent?

Metallic bonds involve a "sea" of delocalized electrons, unlike the specific electron transfers or sharings of ionic and covalent bonds.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 23, 2023

How are coordinate covalent bonds different?

Both electrons in the bond come from the same atom, unlike regular covalent bonds.
Harlon Moss
Oct 23, 2023

Can a compound have both covalent and ionic bonds?

Yes, compounds like ammonium chloride exhibit both bonding types.
Huma Saeed
Oct 23, 2023

Are all covalent bonds single?

No, there can be single, double, or even triple covalent bonds.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 23, 2023

What is a polar covalent bond?

It's a covalent bond where electrons are shared unequally, resulting in a charge difference.
Sara Rehman
Oct 23, 2023

What happens to ionic compounds in an aqueous solution?

They usually dissociate into individual ions, allowing the solution to conduct electricity.
Harlon Moss
Oct 23, 2023

Do ionic compounds dissolve easily in water?

Many do because water can disrupt the electrostatic forces in the ionic lattice.
Janet White
Oct 23, 2023

Do covalent bonds always involve two atoms?

While most covalent bonds involve two atoms, there are exceptions like coordinate covalent bonds.
Sara Rehman
Oct 23, 2023

Can ionic compounds be liquid?

Typically not at room temperature, but when melted, they can become liquid.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 23, 2023

Why are ionic compounds generally more brittle?

The strong electrostatic forces in ionic lattices can lead to brittleness when disrupted.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 23, 2023

Why are ionic compounds typically solid at room temperature?

The strong attractions between ions result in a solid lattice structure.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 23, 2023

Can covalent compounds be liquids or gases?

Yes, due to weaker intermolecular forces compared to ionic compounds.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 23, 2023

What gives ionic compounds high melting points?

The strong electrostatic forces between oppositely charged ions.
Janet White
Oct 23, 2023

Is it possible for ionic bonds to occur between two non-metals?

Rarely, as non-metals typically share, not transfer, electrons.
Harlon Moss
Oct 23, 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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