Alkanoic (Carboxylic) acids

Alkanoic Acids

Alkanoic acids are also known as carboxylic acids. A carboxylic acid can he identified from the carboxyl functional group and the ‘-oic’ name ending.

carbon chain
single bonds
HCOOHC1 : meth-an--COOH
(oic acid)
methanoic acid
(formic acid)
CH3COOHC2 : eth-an--COOH
(oic acid)
ethanoic acid
(acetic acid)
C2H5COOHC3 : prop-an--COOH
(oic acid)
propanoic acid
(propionic acid)
C3H7COOHC4 : but-an--COOH
(oic acid)
butanoic acid
(butyric acid)
rancid butter
C4H9COOHC5 : pent-an--COOH
(oic acid)
pentanoic acid
(valeric acid)
valerian root

General formula of carboxylic (alkanoic acids) : CnH2n+1COOH or R-COOH

Examples of Carboxylic (Alkanoic) Acids

Structural Examples of carboxylic acids

Carboxylic Acid Reactivity

Nomenclature (Naming Alkanoic Acids)

Alkanoic acids are named as follows:

  • The number of carbon atoms in the longest carbon atom chain is noted
  • The corresponding alkane is then named
  • Finally, the name of this corresponding alkane is modified by removing the ane and replacing it with alkanoic acid

For example:


2-Methylpentanoic acid, Food-Grade Flavor Ingredient | 2 ...

 2-ethylpentanoic acid  

2-ethylpentanoic acid, in stock

benzoic acid

Preparation of ethanoic acid

The Complete Oxidation of Ethanol to Ethanoic Acid by acidified sodium heptaoxochromate(VI) solution. Ethanol undergoes oxidation first to ethanal and then to ethanoic acid.

The reaction of sodium dichromate(VI) solution with ethanol gives a carboxylic acid, ethanoic acid, a dilute solution of which is sold as vinegar.

Ethanoic acid can also be prepared by

  •  distilling anhydrous sodium ethanoate, CH3COONa with concentrated H2SO4
  • or boiling methyl cyanide CH3CN with an acid

CH3COONa(aq)+ H2SO4(aq)  → CH3COOH(g) + NaHSO4 (aq)

CH3CN(aq) + HCl(aq) → CH3COOH(g) + NH4Cl(aq)

Physical Properties

  1. Ethanoic acid is usually a colourless liquid with a characteristics sharp and pungent smell
  2. It is soluble in water and a dilute solution has the usual sour taste of acid
  3. It has a boiling point of 1180C
  4. Pure anhydrous ethanoic acid freezes into ice-like crystals at temperature below 170C
  5.  It turns blue litmus paper red
  6. Dilute solution has a sour taste

Chemical Properties of Carboxylic (Alkanoic) Acids

  1. Carboxylic (alkanoic) acids are weak acids, the acid dissociation constant, Ka, is small.
  2. Soluble carboxylic (alkanoic) acids dissociate slightly in water.

Neutralization Reactions

Neutralization: acid + base → salt + water

Carboxylic (alkanoic) acid + base → salt (metal alkanoate) + water


e.g. CH3COOH + NaOH → CH3COONa+ + H2O

Ethanoic acid + sodium hydroxide → sodium ethanoate + water

Soluble salts of long-chain (fatty) acids are soaps

e.g. C17H35COOH + NaOH → C17H35COONa+ + H2O

Stearic acid + sodium hydroxide → sodium stearate + water

Reaction with Carbonates

acid + carbonate → salt + carbon dioxide gas + water

Carboxylic (alkanoic) acid + metal carbonate → metal alkanoate + carbon dioxide + water

e.g. 2CH3COOH + Na2CO3 → 2CH3COONa+ + CO2 + H2O

Ethanoic acid + sodium carbonate → sodium ethanoate + carbon dioxide + water

e.g. CH3COOH + NaHCO3 → CH3COONa+ + CO2 + H2O

Ethanoic acid + sodium bicarbonate → sodium ethanoate + carbon dioxide + water

Reaction with Active Metals

Acid + metal → salt + hydrogen gas

Carboxylic (alkanoic) acid + metal → metal alkanoate + hydrogen

e.g. 2CH3COOH + 2Na(s) → 2CH3COONa+ + H2(g)

Ethanoic acid + sodium → sodium ethanoate + hydrogen

Esterification Reactions

Esters are produced in a condensation reaction between a carboxylic (alkanoic) acid and an alkanol (alcohol).

This is known as an esterification reaction.

carboxylic (alkanoic) acid + alkanol (alcohol) ester + water


Ethanoic acid + methanol methyl ethanoate + water


  1. It can be used as a solvent
  2. It is used in food industries as vinegar for preserving and flavouring food
  3. It is used In the manufacture of cellulose ethanoate which is used for making synthetic fibres, such as rayon
  4.  It is used in making compounds like ethyl ethanoate, ethanoic anhydride (used in aspirin), cellulose ethanoate (used for packing), propanone etc


  1. Ethanoic acid is usually a colourless liquid with a characteristics sharp and ……. smell
    a. pungent
    b. annoying
    c. foul
    d. dirty
  2. Esters are produced in a condensation reaction between a carboxylic (alkanoic) acid and an alkanol (alcohol) known as …….
    a. Polymerization
    b. Esterification
    c. Dehydration
    d. Hydrolysis
  3. Ethanoic acid reacts with active metal to give off ……….. gas
    a. Oxygen
    b. Hydrogen
    c. Carbon
    d. OH
  4. Boiling point of Ethanoic acid is …….
    a. 1170C
    b. 1190C
    c. 1180C
    d. 1200C

It is used in food industries as vinegar for preserving and flavouring food. True/False

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