Chemical and Word Equations

Chemistry.

describing Chemical reactions

Chemists use both word equations and chemical equations to describe chemical reactions. Both types of equations list reactants on the left of an arrow and products on 

the right. A word equation gives the names of the reactants and products. A chemical 

equation, however, provides far more detail: it gives the chemical formulas of the 

reactants and products, their state (Table 1), and specifi c conditions required for the 

reaction to occur. Th e chemical equation also gives the ratio in which the chemicals 

react. Th is is done through coeffi cients placed before each chemical formula. A coeffi -

cient of “1” is implied if no coeffi cient is written. For example, the word and chemical 

equations for the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide are

Word equation: hydrogen peroxide ”’”

MnO2

1

catalyst2

water 1 oxygen 1 energy

Chemical equation: 2 H2

O2

(aq) ”’”

MnO2

1

catalyst2

2 H2

O(l) 1 O2

(g) 1 energy

Th is chemical equation is “balanced” because the total number of atoms of each type 

in the reactants is the same as in the products. In particular, there are four atoms of 

hydrogen and four atoms of oxygen on both sides of the arrow.describing Chemical reactions

Chemists use both word equations and chemical equations to describe chemical reactions. Both types of equations list reactants on the left of an arrow and products on 

the right. A word equation gives the names of the reactants and products. A chemical 

equation, however, provides far more detail: it gives the chemical formulas of the 

reactants and products, their state (Table 1), and specifi c conditions required for the 

reaction to occur. Th e chemical equation also gives the ratio in which the chemicals 

react. Th is is done through coeffi cients placed before each chemical formula. A coeffi -

cient of “1” is implied if no coeffi cient is written. For example, the word and chemical 

equations for the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide are

Word equation: hydrogen peroxide ”’”

MnO2

1

catalyst2

water 1 oxygen 1 energy

Chemical equation: 2 H2

O2

(aq) ”’”

MnO2

1

catalyst2

2 H2

O(l) 1 O2

(g) 1 energy

Th is chemical equation is “balanced” because the total number of atoms of each type 

in the reactants is the same as in the products. In particular, there are four atoms of 

hydrogen and four atoms of oxygen on both sides of the arrow.describing Chemical reactions

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