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    #1

    Reading Chemical Formulae

    I got a question on chemistry.
    There are various formulae used in chemistry to denote compounds. For example, SiC is used for silicone carbide. I was told that this formula can be read as [es] [ai] [see] (in other words, letter for letter), in addition to the option where one has to know the names of compounds like carbide, oxide, sulfate etc. Is this the right way to read chemical formulae? Can I read H2SO4 letter for letter and number for number (instead of sulfuric acid, or hydrogen sulphate)? How about a more simple example of H2O (water)? I want to understand this for reading chemical equations like
    2Cu + O2 = 2CuO
    2Na + H2SO4 = Na2SO4 + H2

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    #2

    Exclamation Re: Reading Chemical Formulae

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack8rkin View Post
    I got a question on chemistry.
    There are various formulae used in chemistry to denote compounds. For example, SiC is used for silicone carbide. I was told that this formula can be read as [es] [ai] [see] (in other words, letter for letter), in addition to the option where one has to know the names of compounds like carbide, oxide, sulfate etc. Is this the right way to read chemical formulae? Can I read H2SO4 letter for letter and number for number (instead of sulfuric acid, or hydrogen sulphate)? How about a more simple example of H2O (water)? I want to understand this for reading chemical equations like
    2Cu + O2 = 2CuO
    2Na + H2SO4 = Na2SO4 + H2
    Being a student of science, I have never read a chemical formula letter for letter nor heard anybody doing that. After all, a chemical formula is a symbolized representation of a chemical compound. It is a special shorthand way of writing the names of chemicals.

    You can either say (in words)-sulfuric acid or (symbolically)-H2SO4

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    #3

    Re: Reading Chemical Formulae

    The matter is how it sounds. What do you mean symbolically? In writing, I can represent it as "suphuric acid" or "H2SO4", because the denotatum is the same (a sort of chemical compound). What should I say in this case? Suphuric acid?

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    #4

    Exclamation Re: Reading Chemical Formulae

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack8rkin View Post
    The matter is how it sounds. What do you mean symbolically? In writing, I can represent it as "suphuric acid" or "H2SO4", because the denotatum is the same (a sort of chemical compound). What should I say in this case? Suphuric acid?
    Chemists speak in code or symbolic letters. Every element has its own symbol (one or two letters) which stands for that chemical's name. For example the letter ‘H’ stands for Hydrogen, ‘He’ stands for Helium.
    So when it is required to describe compounds, the chemists need a short way of doing it, and chemical symbols used to do the job.

    The expression ‘Sulfuric acid’ is chemical compound. Its molecule has two atoms of hydrogen(H2), one atom of sulphur (S) and four atoms of oxygen. In other words, a molecule of sulfuric acid is expressed symbolically as: H2SO4. If you mean how to pronounce the symbolic expression, then yes, you have to read the words and numbers sequentially as: ech+two+es+oh+four

    There is no other linguistic expression other than these two
    Last edited by sarat_106; 09-Apr-2010 at 16:28.

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    #5

    Re: Reading Chemical Formulae

    Some additional information about naming chemical compounds

    I cite my chemical booking,

    Common Names
    Many familiar substances were discovered long before a systematic method for naming them had been developed and they acquired common names that are so well known that no attempt has been made to rename them. For example, following the scheme described above (systematic procedure of nomenclature for chemicals in chemistry world) we might expect that H2O would have the name dihydrogen oxide. Although this isn’t wrong, the common name water is so well known that it is always used.”

    Common name : well-known chemical names we know and call;
    Chemical name : systematic procedure for naming chemicals in chemistry world.

    Other examples,
    CH3OH : Methyl alcohol (methanol);
    CH3CH2OH : Ethyl alcohol (ethanol).

  1. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Reading Chemical Formulae

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack8rkin View Post
    2Cu + O2 = 2CuO
    If there were a reason I had to say this out loud, I would say "two see you plus oh two equals two see you oh."


    Some formulas are so common that we use them every day, such as aitch two oh or see oh two.

    When I was in college I seem to think we had a song that included see two aitch six oh. The college I went to was full of geeks, though.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    #7

    Re: Reading Chemical Formulae

    Thank you everybody. In Russia, we ususally use cuprum ['ku: prum] for Cu and never read it as [C U], or [Tse u] as the Latin version is. As for elements with a single letter designations we use, e.g. [O] for O (oxygen)(which sounds like the 'au' combination in English) and [Tse] for C (carbon). The sulfuric acid in an equation sounds Latin, letter for letter, and numbers used are Russian: [ash dva (two) es o chetyre (four)]. Thus, I can see a kind of analogy with the English language with the Latin tradition preserved to a certain extent in Russian.
    Last edited by Jack8rkin; 12-Apr-2010 at 06:32.

  2. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Reading Chemical Formulae

    You were talking specifically about the formula, right? If I just saw "Cu" by itself, I'd say "copper," not "Cu."

    And conversationally, two copper plus one oxygen... but I may have made a bad assumption.

    One of my geekier moments is when I had to give a password, and I was doing the "D as in dog, F as in Frank," and I got to K and couldn't think of anything so I said "K as in potassium." The sad part was, the person I was giving this to understood completely.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    #9

    Re: Reading Chemical Formulae

    Sure, I wanted to know how all those formulas and, especially, equations sound in English. It's easier with a simple text where Cu is just copper; O2 is oxygen; K is potassium; Na is sodium etc.
    As one of US specialist I worked with said, "SiC is just glass".
    But we all called it silicon carbide, and some Russians called it [see tse]. So I asked Americans if I could read it as [es i see], and they said it was possible.

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