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A binary compound is a chemical compound that contains exactly two different elements.[1] Examples are NaCl (sodium chloride)[2], NaF (sodium fluoride), and MgO (magnesium oxide). Can be either molecular or ionic.


Metals and Nonmetals

Cation + Nonmetal + “-ide” Prefixes are not used when naming these compounds.[3]

Binary Acids

“Hydro-” + Nonmetal + “-ic” + “acid”

There are only 10 existing non-metals that can be involved in binary acids when combined with hydrogen: chlorine, fluorine, bromine, iodine, and sulfur. It can also equal an "-ide."

Binary Covalent Compounds

Nonmetal + Nonmetal + "-ide."

Add the appropriate Latin prefix to each element name to denote the number of atoms of each element present in a molecule of the compound.[2] This method is generally not used with ionic compounds(see below). For example, K2O is usually not called dipotassium monoxide; it is simply potassium oxide. P4O6, however, would be tetraphosphorus hexoxide. Some elements beginning with vowels (Oxygen, for example) replace the vowel ending of its prefix; mono- + Oxide = Monoxide, O4 = Tetroxide, O5 = Pentoxide, and so on.

*Exception – If the first element is a single atom, do not write “mono.”
1 Mono- 3 Tri- 5 Penta- 7 Hepta- 9 Nona-
2 Di- 4 Tetra- 6 Hexa- 8 Octa- 10 Deca-


Binary Ionic Compounds

Cation + Anion + "-ide"[4]

When multiple compounds are possible, the oxidation state of the cation is added after it in roman numerals {copper(II) sulfide), or the cation's stem is used with a -ous or -ic suffix (cupric sulfide).[4]

If the anion is more than one atom of the same substance, either "ite" or "ate" is added at the end instead of "ide". "ite" is used when the anion is, "ate" if the anion is 3 or higher. Ex.: CaCl2 are common however... one being Iron(III) Oxide=Fe2O3.

If the compound is aqueous (aq) and begins with "H" then it can be read as hydro + ____ + ic acid. Example H2SO4 is hydrosulfuric acid


  1. ^ "Binary Compounds". Retrieved 2010-02-25. 
  2. ^ a b c "Naming of Binary Compounds". Retrieved 2010-02-25. 
  3. ^ "Rules for Naming Binary Ionic Compounds Containing a Metal Ion With a Fixed Charge". Retrieved 2010-02-25. 
  4. ^ a b "Binary Ionic Compounds". Retrieved 2010-02-25. 


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