Chemguide: Support for CIE A level Chemistry


Learning outcome 14.2(a)

This statement covers a large number of words that are used in organic chemistry.

Before you go on, you should find and read the statement in your copy of the syllabus.


I have no intention of working through, and explaining, all these words at this stage. I could only do that by giving you a lot of examples which wouldn't mean anything to you at the moment. That is confusing, and could put you off organic chemistry for ever!

You will meet these terms a few at a time during the rest of the course. For example, you will meet the terms "electrophile" and "addition" when you look at the chemistry of alkenes. Those words will be explored in detail as a part of that section, and it will all make sense. Then, a week or so later, you will come across other words as a part of the chemistry of a different sort of compound. It will be much less confusing doing it like this.

What I suggest you do is to make a list of the words in 14.2(a), and then add a quick description of what each word means with an example of its use as you come across it during the course. That would be quite useful for revision purposes later.

The only term I will explain now is functional group.


Functional groups

You will discover as you work through the course that organic chemistry is actually about the reactions of particular bonds in organic molecules. These bonds are a part of what are known as functional groups.

For example, the carbon-carbon double bond in alkenes is a functional group, because the properties of the alkenes are largely due to that bond.

The -OH group in alcohols is another functional group, because the properties of alcohols are dependent on the way it reacts.

It is possible to have more than one functional group in the same molecule. For example, consider the molecule:

Br-CH2-CH2-CH2-OH

The bromine attached to the left-hand carbon is a functional group, and that carbon-bromine bond will have a particular set of reactions. The -OH (alcohol) group at the other end is another functional group, and will add a second set of reactions to the molecule.

The chemistry of a big molecule may be due to the presence of a large number of functional groups scattered around the molecule.


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© Jim Clark 2010 (last modified June 2014)