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Types of Chemical Reactions

Views: 9     Author: Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.     Publish Time: 2020-05-07      Origin: ThoughtCo.

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Types of Chemical Reactions

List of Common Reactions and Examples

By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Updated January 25, 2020

A chemical reaction is a process generally characterized by a chemical change in which the starting materials (reactants) are different from the products. Chemical reactions tend to involve the motion of electrons, leading to the formation and breaking of chemical bonds. There are several different types of chemical reactions and more than one way of classifying them. Here are some common reaction types: 

Oxidation-Reduction or Redox Reaction

In a redox reaction, the oxidation numbers of atoms are changed. Redox reactions may involve the transfer of electrons between chemical species.
The reaction that occurs when In which I2 is reduced to I- and S2O32- (thiosulfate anion) is oxidized to S4O62- provides an example of a redox reaction:
2 S2O32−(aq) + I2(aq) → S4O62−(aq) + 2 I(aq)

Direct Combination or Synthesis Reaction

In a synthesis reaction, two or more chemical species combine to form a more complex product.
A + B → AB
The combination of iron and sulfur to form iron (II) sulfide is an example of a synthesis reaction:
8 Fe + S8 → 8 FeS

Chemical Decomposition or Analysis Reaction

In a decomposition reaction, a compound is broken into smaller chemical species.
AB → A + B
The electrolysis of water into oxygen and hydrogen gas is an example of a decomposition reaction:
2 H2O → 2 H2 + O2

Single Displacement or Substitution Reaction

A substitution or single displacement reaction is characterized by one element being displaced from a compound by another element.
A + BC → AC + B
An example of a substitution reaction occurs when zinc combines with hydrochloric acid. The zinc replaces the hydrogen:
Zn + 2 HCl → ZnCl2 + H2

Metathesis or Double Displacement Reaction

In a double displacement or metathesis reaction two compounds exchange bonds or ions in order to form different compounds.
AB + CD → AD + CB
An example of a double displacement reaction occurs between sodium chloride and silver nitrate to form sodium nitrate and silver chloride.
NaCl(aq) + AgNO3(aq) → NaNO3(aq) + AgCl(s)

Acid-Base Reaction

An acid-base reaction is a type of double displacement reaction that occurs between an acid and a base. The H+ ion in the acid reacts with the OH- ion in the base to form water and an ionic salt:
HA + BOH → H2O + BA
The reaction between hydrobromic acid (HBr) and sodium hydroxide is an example of an acid-base reaction:
HBr + NaOH → NaBr + H2O


A combustion reaction is a type of redox reaction in which a combustible material combines with an oxidizer to form oxidized products and generate heat (exothermic reaction). Usually, in a combustion reaction oxygen combines with another compound to form carbon dioxide and water. An example of a combustion reaction is the burning of naphthalene:
C10H8 + 12 O2 → 10 CO2 + 4 H2O


In an isomerization reaction, the structural arrangement of a compound is changed but its net atomic composition remains the same.

Hydrolysis Reaction

A hydrolysis reaction involves water. The general form for a hydrolysis reaction is:
X-(aq) + H2O(l) ↔ HX(aq) + OH-(aq)

The Main Reaction Types

There are hundreds or even thousands of types of chemical reactions! If you are asked to name the main 4, 5 or 6 types of chemical reactions, here is how they are categorized. The main four types of reactions are direct combination, analysis reaction, single displacement, and double displacement. If you're asked the five main types of reactions, it is these four and then either acid-base or redox (depending who you ask). Keep in mind, a specific chemical reaction may fall into more than one category.





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