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Organic Compounds vs. Inorganic Compounds: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 16, 2023
Organic compounds primarily contain carbon bonded to hydrogen, often with other elements. Inorganic compounds lack this carbon-hydrogen bond structure.

Key Differences

Organic compounds are a broad category of chemical compounds that contain carbon atoms bonded to hydrogen atoms. These compounds can also contain other elements such as oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur. Most of the compounds found in living organisms are organic.
Inorganic compounds, on the other hand, are chemical substances that do not possess the carbon-hydrogen bond found in organic compounds. These compounds are often derived from minerals and can include salts, metals, and other elemental combinations.
Organic compounds can be natural or synthetic. Naturally occurring organic compounds are found in plants, animals, and other living organisms. Examples include sugars, amino acids, and fats. Synthetic organic compounds are man-made and include many types of plastics and pharmaceuticals.
Inorganic compounds encompass a wider range of substances. They can be salts like sodium chloride, metals like iron, or gases like carbon dioxide. While organic compounds are typically associated with life processes, inorganic compounds are often found in the Earth's crust and atmosphere.
Both organic and inorganic compounds play vital roles in the world around us. Organic compounds are essential for life, forming the basis of biochemical processes. Inorganic compounds, meanwhile, have a myriad of applications, from building materials to electronic components.

Comparison Chart

Basic Composition

Carbon atoms bonded to hydrogen.
Lack carbon-hydrogen bonds.


Found in living organisms.
Typically derived from minerals.


Sugars, amino acids, fats.
Sodium chloride, iron, carbon dioxide.

Association with Life

Fundamental to life processes.
Not always directly associated with life processes.


Pharmaceuticals, plastics, fuels.
Building materials, electronic components, catalysts.

Organic Compounds and Inorganic Compounds Definitions

Organic Compounds

Organic compounds can be natural or man-made substances.
Plastic, though synthetic, is composed of organic compounds.

Inorganic Compounds

Inorganic compounds have diverse structures and properties.
Carbon dioxide, a gas, is an inorganic compound due to its carbon-oxygen bonds.

Organic Compounds

Organic compounds are typically covalent compounds.
Ethanol, an organic compound, has covalent bonds.

Inorganic Compounds

Inorganic compounds can be salts, metals, or minerals.
Quartz, made of silicon and oxygen, is an inorganic compound.

Organic Compounds

Organic compounds are chemicals containing carbon and hydrogen bonds.
Methane is a simple organic compound.

Inorganic Compounds

Inorganic compounds are substances without carbon-hydrogen bonds.
Sodium chloride is an inorganic compound.

Organic Compounds

Organic compounds are molecules associated with living organisms.
Proteins, essential to life, are organic compounds.

Inorganic Compounds

Inorganic compounds are not typically derived from living entities.
Iron, a metal, is considered an inorganic compound.

Organic Compounds

Organic compounds can be complex structures derived from carbon skeletons.
The structure of DNA is based on complex organic compounds.

Inorganic Compounds

Inorganic compounds can act as acids, bases, or salts.
Hydrochloric acid is an example of an inorganic compound.


Can inorganic compounds be found in living entities?

Yes, some inorganic compounds are essential for life, like certain minerals.

Why is carbon essential to organic compounds?

Carbon's ability to bond with other elements forms the basis of organic chemistry.

Are organic compounds always solids?

No, organic compounds can be solids, liquids, or gases.

What's a common example of an organic compound?

Glucose, a sugar, is a typical organic compound.

Are inorganic compounds essential for industrial processes?

Absolutely, inorganic compounds are used in many industries, from construction to electronics.

Is oil considered an organic compound?

Yes, oil is an organic compound as it contains carbon and hydrogen.

Can inorganic compounds be toxic?

Yes, some inorganic compounds, like certain heavy metals, can be toxic.

What are organic compounds?

Organic compounds primarily contain carbon atoms bonded to hydrogen, often with other elements.

What distinguishes inorganic compounds?

Inorganic compounds typically lack carbon-hydrogen bonds.

Are all organic compounds found in living organisms?

No, organic compounds can be both natural and synthetic.

Are plastics organic or inorganic?

Plastics are organic compounds because they contain carbon-hydrogen bonds.

Are metals considered inorganic?

Yes, metals like iron or copper are inorganic compounds.

What's the complexity range for organic compounds?

Organic compounds can range from simple molecules like methane to complex ones like DNA.

Can inorganic compounds conduct electricity?

Some, especially when dissolved in water or molten, can conduct electricity.

Name an everyday inorganic compound.

Table salt, or sodium chloride, is an inorganic compound.

Do inorganic compounds play roles in biology?

Yes, inorganic compounds like minerals are crucial for many biological processes.

Are inorganic compounds diverse in structure?

Yes, inorganic compounds can have varied structures, from simple salts to complex minerals.

Can organic compounds be man-made?

Yes, many synthetic materials, like plastics, are made of organic compounds.

What binds organic compounds together?

Covalent bonds primarily hold organic compounds together.

Can inorganic compounds form crystals?

Yes, many inorganic compounds, like salts, form crystals.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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