eli5 – Why are some acids written as an ion if they are covalent


Sulfuric acid has a formula of H2SO4 and is written like an ion, but it is apparently a covalent compound according to google.

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Acids are special compounds that dissociate into ions when dissolved in water. Specifically, a hydrogen atom buggers off and leaves its electron behind, so you have a bunch of free floating protons (H^+ ions) and a bunch of other ions that are up an electron and down a Hydrogen (in the case of sulphuric acid, HSO4^- ). The larger ion is still a covalently bonded molecule, it’s just also an ion.

General rule of thumb – covalent molecules can be ions in ionic compounds, as the positive or negativeness is a property of the molecule as a whole rather than any one specific atom.

Oh and bonus fun fact: Water does this too! In any given amount of pure water, you’ve also got some H^+ ions and some OH^- ions, which are water molecules that have decided to just be friends.