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How are chemical formulas named?

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Quick Answer

Chemical formulas are named based on the number and type of atoms in the chemical. In chemical formulas of two atoms with opposite charges, the first element is a metal and the second is a non-metal. The chemical's name is the name of the metal and the name of the non-metal, with the non-metal's name ending in the "-ide" suffix, according to Fernbank Science Center. For example, the combination of sodium and chlorine is called "sodium chloride."

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Organic compounds, which contain carbon and hydrogen, are named based on the number of carbons and the type of carbon-carbon bonds in the compound. For example, compounds that have one carbon have the prefix "meth-," those with two carbons start with "eth-" and those with three compounds start with

"prop-."

Organic compounds with carbon-carbon single bonds have the suffix of "-ane." Chemicals with a carbon-carbon double bound end in "-ene" and compounds with a carbon-carbon triple bond end in "-yne," says Chem Guide. For example, the chemical with the formula C3H8 is named "propane" because it has three carbons and contains only single bonds. Organic compounds with an oxygen-hydrogen group attached are called alcohols and use the "-ol" suffix, according to Chem Guide.

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