How are valence electrons related to oxidation state?

1 Answer

The assumed, hypothetical transfer of a certain number of valence electrons can give rise to the oxidation states possible.


Valence electrons are the electrons on the outer shell of the atom that can be used for bonding.

Oxidation state is the hypothetical charge an atom would have if all of the valence electrons were transferred from the atom of interest to another atom.

For example sulfur has six valence electrons. It can gain two more electrons to achieve a stable electronic structure. This gives sulfur a common oxidation state of -2.

Or, sulfur, in the context of polyatomic compounds, can have oxidation states of +4 and +6 (e.g. in #"SO"_2# or #"SO"_4^(2-)#, respectively).

Valence electron are the electrons that can be shared or transferred. Oxidation states are the hypothetical charges that result from the complete transfer of electrons in context.