Understanding Polarity

Chemistry Tutorial

Understanding Polarity


Polarity is one of the most difficult chemistry concepts to master, but with this short tutorial you’ll soon be an expert!

Sample Problem

What is polarity, and why is a water molecule considered polar?


Polarity results from the uneven partial charge distribution between various atoms in a compound. Atoms, such as nitrogen, oxygen, and halogens, that are more electronegative have a tendency to have partial negative charges. Atoms, such as carbon and hydrogen, have a tendency to be more neutral or have partial positive charges. Electrons in a polar covalent bond are unequally shared between the two bonded atoms, which results in partial positive and negative charges. The separation of the partial charges creates a dipole. The word dipole means two poles: the separated partial positive and negative charges. A polar molecule results when a molecule contains polar bonds in an unsymmetrical arrangement.
Now we can answer why water (H2O) is a polar molecule.
It is made up of Hydrogen (a very non electronegative element) and Oxygen (a very electronegative element). When these elements bond together, the partial positive ends on the Hydrogens are trying to get away from the partial negative ends on the Oxygen molecule. Therefore instead of having a linear structure they form a bent structure that results from the polar bonds between the Hydrogens and the Oxygen.

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