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The common confusion below is the two very different things have actually the exact same name. $ce O$ is a complimentary oxygen atom and also $ceO2$ is 2 oxygen atom chemically bound to type an oxygen molecule.

You are watching: Explain why oxygen gas must be written as o2 in a chemical equation

There is no common analogy for $ce C$, however $ceN2$ is referred to as nitrogen, $ceH2$ is hydrogen and $ceCl2$ is chlorine, each having the very same name together that of your constituent elements.

So, come reiterate, the difference between oxygen $left(ce O ight)$ and also oxygen $left(ceO2 ight)$ is the the previous is an oxygen atom when the latter consists of two $ce O$ atoms bound together, developing a molecule likewise called oxygen.


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edited jan 10 "17 at 2:02
answered jan 9 "17 in ~ 19:51
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Sometimes we usage terminology a small loosely.

When we are simply talking about the element, then just using the price by chin is clear. But sometimes we require to describe how the element shows up in the people or in usmam.org reactions. Then it isn"t enough to describe just the element, we require to understand something about how the is uncovered under common conditions. Oxygen is usually discovered as a diatomic gas (which is why we compose O2). Because this is by far the commonest method we find totally free oxygen in nature we often describe it this way anyway uneven there is a reason not to.

Nitrogen is additionally mostly uncovered in pure kind as a diatomic gas (N2). Carbon, however, is usually found as a solid and never as a simple molecule (diamond and graphite space both covalently external inspection solids) sort is rarely helpful to define its typical molecular kind as there isn"t one. We could talk about sulfur together S or, if us care about the allotrope we can specify S8, despite there are others typical in the lab.

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It matters tiny which variation you use to define the element. But, if you space talking about reactions, it is commonly worth describing the molecular type of the element you room talking about. Oxygen isn"t constantly O2 but can be formed (in the upper environment or in some reactions) together O3.

Chemists mix and also match your terminology somewhat easily when the doesn"t issue much, but shot to it is in as details as possible when it does.