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Acids and Bases: Lewis vs. Bronsted

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Acids and bases play vital roles in many organic chemical reactions. This page examines two complementary definitions of acids and bases, and explores some of the more common ways in which acids and bases are involved in promoting organic reactions. The factors that influence the relative strengths of acids and bases are also reviewed.

Strongly Related Topics

Somewhat Related Topics

Glossary Terms
acidity constant Bronsted-Lowry acids Bronsted-Lowry bases
conjugate acid conjugate base electrophile
HOMO Lewis acid Lewis base
LUMO nucleophile resonance effect

Acids and Bases: Lewis vs. Bronsted

There are two complementary definitions of acids and bases that are important:

  1. the Bronsted (or Bronsted-Lowry) definition: an acid is a proton (H+ ion) donor, and a base is a proton acceptor;
  2. the Lewis definition: an acid is an electron acceptor, and a base is an electron donor.
These definitions are illustrated with general and specific equations in Figures 1 and 2 below:

Fig. 1

Self-Test Question #1 Below are shown two very similar acid/base reactions:

In each case, decide which of the reactants is a base, and which is an acid. Also determine which process is a Lewis acid/base reaction, but is not a Bronsted-Lowry acid/base reaction.


Links to Related reading in textbook (McMurry, Organic Chemistry, 4th ed.)

Links to Related Computer-based Learning Materials

Links To Related Internet Resources

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This page was prepared by Derrick Hendricks and Michael Newman of the Penn State University, Schuylkill Campus, Fall 1996- Spring 1997

Send questions, comments, or suggestions to:
Dr. Thomas H. Eberlein
Copyright © 1996 Thomas H. Eberlein

Version 1.2.5, 3/17/97