Why is acetic acid a stronger acid than ethanol?

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Explain why acetic acid, CH3COOH, is a stronger acid than ethanol, CH3CH2OH.

Aug 23rd, 2015

Thank you for the opportunity to help you with your question!

The strength of any acid comes from how easily a "proton" is lost to water. Dissociation is a "competition" between the acid molecule and water. Strong acids are "easily defeated". The water molecule has a greater affinity for H+ than does the strong acid anion.

But in a weak acid, the hydrogen is more strongly bound to the "anion". In the -COOH structure the electron density is shifted toward the doubly bonded oxygen and away from the hydrogen making it more easily lost to adjacent water molecules.

In ethanol, there is no electron withdrawing atom and the bond between O and H is much stronger, making the H less easily removed by adjacent water molecules. In fact, the O-H is so strong, the ethanol barely behaves like an acid at all.

Please let me know if you need any clarification. I'm always happy to answer your questions.
Aug 23rd, 2015

Thank you so much! It really helps.

Aug 23rd, 2015

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