Skip to main content
Medicine LibreTexts

10: Functional Group Reactions

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)


    There is a very large, often intimidating, number of organic chemistry reactions. These are the "tools" of a chemist, and to use these tools effectively, we must organize them in a sensible manner and look for patterns of reactivity that permit us make plausible predictions. Most of these reactions occur at special sites of reactivity known as functional groups, and these constitute one organizational scheme that helps us catalog and remember reactions. Ultimately, the best way to achieve proficiency in organic chemistry is to understand how reactions take place, and to recognize the various factors that influence their course.Functional groups are atoms or small groups of atoms (two to four) that exhibit a characteristic reactivity when treated with certain reagents. A particular functional group will almost always display its characteristic chemical behavior when it is present in a compound. Because of this, the discussion of organic reactions is often organized according to functional groups.

    • 10.1: Oxidation-Reduction (Redox) Reactions
      Chemical reactions in which electrons are transferred are called oxidation-reduction, or redox, reactions. Oxidation is the loss of electrons. Reduction is the gain of electrons. Oxidation and reduction always occur together, even though they can be written as separate chemical equations.
    • 10.2: Redox Reactions in Organic Chemistry
      Redox reactions are common in organic and biological chemistry, including the combustion of organic chemicals, respiration, and photosynthesis.
    • 10.3: Reactions that Form Alcohols
      Many alcohols are made by the hydration of alkenes. Ethanol can be made by the fermentation of sugars or starch from various sources.
    • 10.4: Reactions of Alcohols
      Alcohols can be dehydrated to form either alkenes (higher temperature, excess acid) or ethers (lower temperature, excess alcohol). Primary alcohols are oxidized to form aldehydes. Secondary alcohols are oxidized to form ketones. Tertiary alcohols are not readily oxidized.
    • 10.5: The Formation of Carboxylic Acids
      Whether in the laboratory or in the body, the oxidation of aldehydes or primary alcohols forms carboxylic acids.
    • 10.6: Properties of Esters
      Esters have polar bonds but do not engage in hydrogen bonding and are therefore intermediate in boiling points between the nonpolar alkanes and the alcohols, which engage in hydrogen bonding. Ester molecules can engage in hydrogen bonding with water, so esters of low molar mass are therefore somewhat soluble in water.
    • 10.7: Hydrolysis of Esters
      Esters are neutral compounds, unlike the acids from which they are formed. In typical reactions, the alkoxy (OR′) group of an ester is replaced by another group. One such reaction is hydrolysis, literally “splitting with water.” The hydrolysis of esters is catalyzed by either an acid or a base.
    • 10.8: Hydrolysis of Amides
      Generally, amides resist hydrolysis in plain water, even after prolonged heating. In the presence of added acid or base, however, hydrolysis proceeds at a moderate rate. In living cells, amide hydrolysis is catalyzed by enzymes.
    • 10.9: Summary
      To ensure that you understand the material in this chapter, you should review the meanings of the following bold terms in the summary and ask yourself how they relate to the topics in the chapter.

    10: Functional Group Reactions is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.