How to Write a Chemical Compound Name

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Chemists use special nomenclature rules to clearly name ionic and molecular compounds. When a binary (two-element) compound contains a nonmetal and a metal, the name of the metal is written first followed by the name of the nonmetal with its ending replaced by the suffix -ide. Thus, the compound NaF is named sodium fluoride. This compound has many uses, including metallurgy and the fluoridation of drinking water.

Most transition metals can form cations with different charges, and the chemistry of these compounds requires the use of a Roman numeral in parentheses following the name of the metal to identify its charge. For example, the two compounds containing titanium are Ti2+ chloride and Ti4+ chloride; each has its own chemical properties.

Some compounds contain polyatomic ions, and the names of these ions are written with prefixes to indicate their number of atoms. For example, H2CO3 is called carbonic acid. Similarly, SF6 is sulfur hexafluoride and N2O4 is dinitrogen tetroxide. You should commit these to memory as you continue your study of chemistry. Also, acids require special nomenclature rules.