How to read chemical formulas?I know the very basics - for instance, some simple formulas are just spelled, but what about something more complicated? For instance, how do you read Mg(OH)2 ? I...

How to read chemical formulas?

I know the very basics - for instance, some simple formulas are just spelled, but what about something more complicated? For instance, how do you read Mg(OH)2 ?

I know, what a compund it is, I need some general reading rules only. Thanks beforehand!

Asked on by koslovamari

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ncchemist | eNotes Employee

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Chemical formulas are composed of letters than denote specific atoms and numbers written as subscripts that denote the numbers of atoms in comparison to one another.  Some are very simple like NaCl: sodium chloride.  The one you have above Mg(OH)2 is a little more complex.  Parentheses around atoms denotes that they are grouped together.  A subscript after the parentheses denotes that the entire group of atoms contained within are present in that number.  So we know that the OH above is grouped together to make the hydroxide group and there are two of these hydroxide groups present.  So the name of the chemical is magnesium hydroxide.

In order to really read chemical formulas effectively you are going to need to memorize the most common elemental symbols and also the most common groups of ions found in nature (like the hydroxide group (OH) or the nitrate group (NO3).

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