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Alcohols and ethers

  1. Mar 10, 2008 #1
    I'm confused as to what alcohols really are. I keep reading that an alcohol is an "ALKYL" group with a hydroxyl group attached to it but then I see that definition being contradicted by the exact same person that wrote it. The claim its an ALKYL group but they give examples which list heteroatoms.

    At first I thought an alcohol was a hydrocarbon with a hydroxyl group attached to it and I really liked that definition of alcohols because it allowed me to easily identify them but other people tell me that an alcohol is ANY molecule with a hydroxyl group attached to it.

    Which is it? Is an alcohol a hydrocarbon (no heteroatoms) with a hydroxyl group attached to it or is an alcohol any molecule with a hydroxyl group attached to it.

    Also I'm wondering the same thing about ether. Are the two groups attached to ethers O always alkyl groups as is the case with Diethyl ether or is ether just ANY molecule that has its two sides connected by an oxygen atom?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 10, 2008 #2


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    Alcohols are at the simplest a hydrocarbon with either one or multiple number of hydroxyl functional groups , at times a molecule can have multiple functional groups in which case it may or may not be referred to as an alcohol unless this particular group is the most important in its function.
  4. Mar 10, 2008 #3
    A molecule is called an alcohol when the hydroxyl group on it is its definitive feature. More complicated molecules can still have a hydroxyl group attached to them, but will instead name it as a substituent group. To denote this, the suffix '-ol' will be placed somewhere in the compound's name using IUPAC naming conventions.
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