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Why Nitrogen has 5 Oxidation Numbers that are false?

  1. Sep 14, 2015 #1
    My Chemistry Teacher told that 5 of the 6 oxidation numbers of Nitrogen are not true. He said something like it is a mathematical trick for I don't know what. The real oxidation number is -3. Can anyone explain me what are the 5 false oxidation number? Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 14, 2015 #2


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    Gold Member

    Your chemistry teacher is wrong. An oxidation number of -3 implies that N2 has a charge of -6.
  4. Sep 14, 2015 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    First of all - oxidation numbers don't exist in reality. There is no property of an atom that can be measured to check what the ON is. ON are just an accounting device that helps us to keep track of the electrons - a clever, and useful one, but without any experimental support.

    However, we have defined how to calculate oxidation numbers, and we can calculate them following the rules. For different existing compounds we get different ONs for the nitrogen, neither is more real than the rest, they all exist only in our calculations.
  5. Sep 14, 2015 #4
    Ok thank you so much! This means that the chemistry I'm learning is wrong...
  6. Sep 14, 2015 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    Not necessarily. As I wrote - ON are quite useful for balancing redox equations, just don't treat them too seriously.
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