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Why can sulphur lose 6 electrons while magnesium can't gain 6?

  1. Dec 4, 2006 #1

    I am fighting with a problem from grade 11 chem right now.

    The problem is why when sulphur bonds to other atoms, its ion charge often becomes 6+ or 2- while magnesium will always form an ion of charge 2+.

    I think I have an answer but am not sure. Is it because magnesium has a lower electronegativity and is less able/willing to attract extra elections? but then I have the paradox of why sulphur would be willing to lose 6(!) electrons with such a high desire to fill its last two orbitals and complete its octet (high electronegativity). :mad:
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 4, 2006 #2
    Sulfur never loses 6 electrons to form a stable ionic compound. Sulfur can however have a +6 oxidation state in compounds such as H2SO4. Realize that oxidation numbers are simply part of a "bookeeping" method devised by humans to keep track of which chemical species are being oxidized and reduced. Oxidation numbers do not represent the actual charge on an atom.

    With regards to ionic compounds, Mg is most stable as Mg+2 and S as S-2.
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