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Oxidation Number vs. Valency — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on December 6, 2023
Oxidation Number indicates an atom's apparent charge in a molecule or ion; Valency represents an atom's ability to bond with other atoms.
Oxidation Number vs. Valency — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Oxidation Number and Valency

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Key Differences

Oxidation Number is a concept used to help understand the distribution of electron density in a molecule or ion. It assigns a theoretical charge to an atom as if it were an ion, based on certain rules. On the contrary, Valency is a measure of an atom's capacity to form bonds, indicating how many electrons an atom can donate, accept, or share in a chemical reaction.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 06, 2023
In many situations, the Oxidation Number of an atom can be similar to its Valency. For example, oxygen typically has an Oxidation Number of -2 and also a Valency of 2. However, these two terms stem from different chemical concepts. Oxidation Number is deeply rooted in the field of redox reactions, focusing on electron transfers. Meanwhile, Valency has a broader context, encompassing all types of chemical bonds.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 06, 2023
While Oxidation Number can be positive, negative, or zero, reflecting the theoretical charge of an atom in a compound, Valency is generally a positive number. This is because Valency reflects the number of bonds an atom forms, irrespective of whether the atom donates or accepts electrons.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 06, 2023
Lastly, it's vital to note that while the Oxidation Number can vary depending on the compound an element is in, the Valency of an element is usually consistent. For instance, the Oxidation Number of sulfur in various compounds can range from -2 to +6. In contrast, the Valency of sulfur is typically 2, as it usually forms two bonds.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 06, 2023

Comparison Chart

Definition

Indicates apparent charge of an atom in a compound.
Represents atom's ability to bond with other atoms.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 06, 2023
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Rooted in

Redox reactions and electron transfers.
General chemical bonding.
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Dec 06, 2023

Value Range

Can be positive, negative, or zero.
Typically a positive number.
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Dec 06, 2023

Consistency across compounds

Can vary for an element in different compounds.
Usually consistent for an element.
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Dec 06, 2023

Focus

Electron distribution in compounds.
Atom's capacity to form bonds.
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Dec 06, 2023

Compare with Definitions

Oxidation Number

Theoretical charge of an atom in a compound.
The Oxidation Number of hydrogen in H₂O is +1.
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Oct 26, 2023

Valency

Reflects the outermost electron configuration.
The Valency of elements in group 1 is 1, as they have one electron in their outermost shell.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 26, 2023

Oxidation Number

Indicates how many electrons an atom gains, loses, or shares in a compound.
In NaCl, the Oxidation Number of sodium is +1.
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Oct 26, 2023

Valency

Indicates how many electrons an atom can share, donate, or accept.
Chlorine has a Valency of 1 as it accepts one electron.
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Oct 26, 2023

Oxidation Number

Can be fractional in some cases.
In Fe₃O₄, the average Oxidation Number of iron is +8/3.
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Oct 26, 2023

Valency

Atom's ability to bond with other atoms.
Carbon has a Valency of 4, forming four bonds.
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Oct 26, 2023

Oxidation Number

Helps in determining the oxidizing and reducing agents.
Based on its Oxidation Number, oxygen often acts as an oxidizing agent.
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Oct 26, 2023

Valency

Variant of valence.
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Oct 19, 2023

Oxidation Number

Used in balancing redox reactions.
To balance the redox equation, one must consider the Oxidation Number of each element.
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Oct 26, 2023

Valency

Senseid|en|chemistry}}{{alternative form of valence
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Oct 19, 2023

Valency

The capacity of something to combine with other things, as for example the capability of a vaccine as measured by the number of pathogen serotypes that it can counteract.
Vaccine valency
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Oct 19, 2023

Valency

The number of edges connected to a vertex in a graph.
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Valency

Senseid|en|linguistics}}{{alternative form of valence
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Valency

(uncountable) Importance, significance.
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Valency

See Valence.
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Oct 19, 2023

Valency

The phenomenon of forming chemical bonds
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Oct 19, 2023

Valency

(biology) a relative capacity to unite or react or interact as with antigens or a biological substrate
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Oct 19, 2023

Valency

(chemistry) a property of atoms or radicals; their combining power given in terms of the number of hydrogen atoms (or the equivalent)
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Oct 19, 2023

Valency

Used to determine an element's chemical formula.
Knowing the Valency of hydrogen and oxygen aids in deducing the formula H₂O.
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Oct 26, 2023

Valency

Helps in understanding molecular geometry.
Water has bent geometry, influenced by oxygen's Valency.
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Oct 26, 2023

Common Curiosities

Is Oxidation Number always an integer?

No, Oxidation Number can sometimes be fractional.
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Dec 06, 2023

Is Valency always positive?

Valency is generally positive, as it indicates the number of bonds an atom forms.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 06, 2023

What is an Oxidation Number?

Oxidation Number indicates an atom's apparent charge in a molecule or ion.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 06, 2023

What does Valency represent?

Valency represents an atom's ability to bond with other atoms.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 06, 2023

Can Oxidation Number and Valency be the same?

Sometimes they can be similar, but they stem from different chemical concepts.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 06, 2023

How does Valency affect molecular formulas?

Knowing the Valency of elements helps in determining the correct chemical formula for compounds.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 06, 2023

Does Oxidation Number affect chemical reactivity?

Yes, elements with high positive or negative Oxidation Numbers can be highly reactive.
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Dec 06, 2023

How is Oxidation Number used in redox reactions?

Oxidation Number helps in identifying the oxidizing and reducing agents and balancing redox reactions.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 06, 2023

Can the Oxidation Number of an element vary in different compounds?

Yes, the Oxidation Number of an element can change depending on the compound.
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Dec 06, 2023

What does a zero Oxidation Number indicate?

A zero Oxidation Number often indicates a neutral atom within a compound.
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Dec 06, 2023

How is Valency determined for transition metals?

Valency for transition metals can be variable and is often determined from the specific compound they are in.
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Dec 06, 2023

Is Valency tied to the electron configuration?

Yes, Valency is often related to the electrons in an atom's outermost shell.
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Dec 06, 2023

How does one determine the Oxidation Number in a compound?

Oxidation Number is determined based on a set of rules, considering electronegativity and bond type.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 06, 2023

Can elements with Valency zero form compounds?

Elements with a Valency of zero, like noble gases, rarely form compounds, but there are exceptions.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 06, 2023

Is Valency an absolute measure of bonding ability?

While Valency provides insight into bonding capacity, other factors also influence an atom's ability to form bonds.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 06, 2023

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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