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How do you name coordination compounds?

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Quick Answer

To name coordination compounds, chemists use combinations of agreed-upon alphabetical and numerical prefixes and suffixes to indicate the kind and number of the ligands that the make up the compound. The established convention is to name cations before anions, to list the type and number of the ligands in alphabetical order and to suffix anionic ligands with the letter "o" (e.g. sulfate becomes sulfato).

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Common anionic ligands in coordination compounds include bromo- (Br-), fluro- (F-), oxo (O2-) and hydroxo- (OH-). Neutral ligands include ammine (NH3), aqua (H2O) and nitrosyl (NO). The central metal atom or ion's name changes based on whether the complex ion that bonds the metal is an anion or cation. If the complex ion is an anion, the name of the metal is suffixed with -ate (i.e. Iron becomes Ferrate). If the complex ion is a cation, the name of the metal remains the same. Ligands are combinations of anionic, cationic and neutral species that form the functional groups which bond the metal in the coordination compound. The electrically charged anions and cations need to balance each other out to neutrality for the molecule they participate in to be considered a coordination compound instead of a complex radical.

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