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One Page Lesson: Determining Electron-Group & Molecular Geometry

The repulsive forces between bonding and non-bonding electrons determine the three-dimensional geometry of the

“groups” of electrons around a central atom. Because the negative charges repel one another, the electron groups arrange

themselves so they are as far apart as possible. This is the “Valence Shell Electron Pair Repulsion” (VSEPR) Theory.

Thus, the “Electron Group” geometry of each central atom in a structure can be determined by simply counting the

number of “groups” of electrons around the atom, then considering how those groups would arrange themselves to be as

far apart as possible. A “group” of electrons can be a single bond, double bond, triple bond, or a lone pair of electrons.

The table below indicates the “Molecular Geometry” of the central atom depending on whether the groups of electrons

around it are covalent bonds to other atoms or simply lone pairs of electrons. IF the electron groups are covalent bonds,

then ATOMS are present to “Mark the Corners” of each spatial arrangement: the two ends of the linear geometry, the

three corners of the trigonal planar geometry, or the four corners of the tetrahedral geometry. But – IF an electron group

is a LONE PAIR, there is NO ATOM VISIBLE to “Mark that Corner”of the geometry. Remember – You can only “see”

the ATOMS; you CANNOT “see” the ELECTRONS.

# of Groups

Electron Group

Number of

Molecular Geometry

Approximate

Example

of Electrons

Geometry

Lone Pairs

Bond Angles

Compound

o

2

Linear

0

Linear

180

carbon dioxide,

CO

2

o

3

Trigonal Planar

0

Trigonal Planar

120

formaldehyde,

CH

O

2

o

4

Tetrahedral

0

Tetrahedral

109.5

methane,

CH

4

o

4

Tetrahedral

1

Trigonal Pyramid

107

ammonia,

NH

3

o

4

Tetrahedral

2

Angular (Bent)

104.5

water,

H

O

2

C. Graham Brittain

10/9/2007

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Parent category: Education