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Valency vs. Oxidation State: What's the Difference?

Edited by Huma Saeed || By Sumera Saeed || Updated on October 17, 2023
Valency refers to the combining capacity of an atom, while oxidation state indicates the degree of oxidation or reduction of an atom.

Key Differences

Valency is a fundamental concept rooted in the atom's ability to bond with other atoms. It essentially describes how many electrons an atom uses or needs to achieve a full outer shell. On the other hand, the oxidation state gives insight into an atom's electron distribution when considering the hypothetical transfer of electrons in bonds. It reveals how many electrons an atom has gained or lost.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023
Valency is primarily concerned with the actual chemical bonding in compounds. For instance, in water (H₂O), the valency of oxygen is 2 because it forms two bonds with hydrogen atoms. Oxidation state, conversely, considers the hypothetical charges on atoms. In the same molecule of water, the oxidation state of oxygen is -2, indicating it has a more negative character due to the electrons it shares with hydrogen.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023
While valency is often a fixed number for a given element in a specific compound, oxidation state can vary based on the element's surroundings and the other elements present. For instance, iron (Fe) can have oxidation states of +2 or +3 in different compounds. However, its valency in terms of bonding might remain consistent in those compounds.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023
In essence, valency is focused on an atom's bonding capacity, which can be physical and tangible in a molecule. Oxidation state is a theoretical concept, more about electron distribution and charge attribution.
Sara Rehman
Oct 17, 2023

Comparison Chart

Definition

Combining capacity of an atom.
Degree of oxidation or reduction of an atom.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023
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Focus

Actual chemical bonds.
Hypothetical charges on atoms.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Numerical Value

Often whole numbers.
Can be whole, fractional, or zero.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Changeability

Typically consistent for an element in a compound.
Can vary based on surroundings.
Sara Rehman
Oct 17, 2023

Relation to Electrons

Electrons needed or used for bonding.
Electrons gained or lost.
Harlon Moss
Oct 17, 2023

Valency and Oxidation State Definitions

Valency

The combining capacity of an atom.
The valency of hydrogen is 1.
Huma Saeed
Oct 17, 2023
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Oxidation State

A theoretical charge an atom would have in a molecule or ion.
In NaCl, the oxidation state of sodium is +1.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Valency

A measure of an element's ability to bond with others.
Carbon has a valency of 4 because it can form four covalent bonds.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Oxidation State

Represents the effective charge of an atom in a compound.
In magnesium oxide, the oxidation state of magnesium is +2.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Valency

The number of electrons an atom can lose, gain, or share.
The valency of chlorine is 1, as it can gain one electron.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Oxidation State

The degree of oxidation or reduction of an atom.
The oxidation state of oxygen in H₂O is -2.
Huma Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Valency

The total number of bonds an atom can form.
In methane, the valency of carbon is 4, forming four bonds with hydrogen.
Janet White
Oct 17, 2023

Oxidation State

Indicates the electrons an atom gains, loses, or shares.
The oxidation state of iron in Fe₂O₃ is +3.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Valency

A descriptor of an atom's bond formation tendency.
The valency of oxygen in water is 2, indicating its two bonds with hydrogen.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Oxidation State

A concept used to describe electron distribution in compounds.
In sulfur hexafluoride, the oxidation state of sulfur is +6.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Valency

Variant of valence.
Sumera Saeed
Sep 15, 2019

Valency

Senseid|en|chemistry}}{{alternative form of valence
Sumera Saeed
Sep 15, 2019

FAQs

How is valency determined?

Valency is determined by the number of electrons an atom can lose, gain, or share.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

What is valency?

Valency is the combining capacity of an atom.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Are valency and oxidation state always the same?

No, while they can sometimes coincide, they often differ.
Janet White
Oct 17, 2023

Why is valency important?

Valency helps predict how atoms will bond in compounds.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Can valency be zero?

Yes, for noble gases or molecules where an element doesn't form bonds, its valency is zero.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Is valency affected by the surrounding environment?

Valency is typically consistent for an element in a specific compound, regardless of surroundings.
Sara Rehman
Oct 17, 2023

Can oxidation state be fractional?

Yes, some elements can have fractional oxidation states.
Janet White
Oct 17, 2023

What does a positive oxidation state indicate?

A positive oxidation state indicates a loss of electrons.
Sara Rehman
Oct 17, 2023

Is valency always a whole number?

Yes, valency is typically a whole number.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Do valency and oxidation state have any relation?

While both relate to electron interactions, valency deals with actual bonding and oxidation state with hypothetical charge distribution.
Harlon Moss
Oct 17, 2023

Can an element have multiple oxidation states?

Yes, elements, especially transition metals, can exhibit multiple oxidation states.
Harlon Moss
Oct 17, 2023

How does one calculate valency?

Valency is often deduced from the number of electrons needed to fill an atom's outer shell.
Sara Rehman
Oct 17, 2023

How does one determine the oxidation state in a complex ion?

Sum of oxidation states in a complex ion equals its charge.
Sara Rehman
Oct 17, 2023

What does oxidation state represent?

Oxidation state indicates the degree of oxidation or reduction of an atom.
Huma Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

How does valency relate to the periodic table?

Valency often corresponds to an element's group number, especially for main group elements.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Does every atom in a compound have a valency?

Yes, every atom has a valency, representing its bonding capacity.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Does a higher oxidation state mean an atom is more oxidized?

Yes, a higher positive oxidation state indicates a higher degree of oxidation.
Harlon Moss
Oct 17, 2023

How is oxidation state used in redox reactions?

Oxidation state helps determine which elements are oxidized and which are reduced.
Harlon Moss
Oct 17, 2023

What determines an atom's oxidation state in a compound?

The atom's electron distribution and its relationship with other atoms determine its oxidation state.
Janet White
Oct 17, 2023

Can oxidation state be zero?

Yes, in elemental forms, the oxidation state is typically zero.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 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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