Tutorials

Molecular Geometry and Bond Angles

Core Concepts

In this tutorial, you will learn how to identify the molecular geometry and bond angles of a molecule. If you enjoy this tutorial, feel free to check out our other tutorials on bonding listed below.

Covered in other articles

Vocabulary

  • Electron Geometry: Describes the arrangement of bonds and lone pairs around a central atom.
  • Molecular Geometry: Describes the arrangement of atoms around the central atom with acknowledgment to only bonding electrons.
  • Hybridization: Orbitals are combined in order to spread out electrons.
  • Bond angles: The angle between adjacent bonds of an atom.

What is molecular geometry?

Molecular geometry describes the three-dimensional structure of a molecule. Chemists are able to predict the arrangement of atoms and chemical bonds using the valence-shell electron-pair repulsion theory or VSEPR. This theory revolves around the idea that electrons repel each other and therefore will bond accordingly.

Types of configurations and angles

There are three main types of configurations: linear, trigonal, and tetrahedral. Below is a table demonstrating the relationship between the number of bonding partners and these configurations.

ConfigurationBonding AttachmentsBond Angle
Linear2180
Trigonal3120
Tetrahedral4109.5

Determining molecular geometry and bond angles

To determine the molecular geometry of a structure we need to know two things. Firstly, we must know how many total attachments there are. additionally, we need to know how many of these attachments are bonds and lone pairs. Notice in the table below how if there are no lone pairs, the molecular geometry and electron geometry will be the same.

In the table below, you will see the coordination between the number and type of attachments in relation to the bond angles. For the most part, this information will have to be memorized.

AttachmentsMolecular GeometryElectron GeometryHybridizationBond Angles
2linearlinearsp180
3trigonal planartrigonal planarsp2120
3 (2 bonds and 1 lone pair)benttrigonal planarsp2about 118
4tetrahedraltetrahedralsp3109.5
4 (3 bonds and 1 lone pair)trigonal pyramidaltetrahedralsp3<109.5
4 (2 bonds and 2 lone pairs)benttetrahedralsp3about 105

Practice Example:

What is the molecular geometry and bond angle of water (H2O)?

The answer is the molecular geometry of water would be bent. Notice there are 4 attachments, or, electron groups surrounding oxygen. This would make the electron geometry tetrahedral. However, this is not the molecular geometry. Two of these attachments are bonds and the other two are lone pairs. Therefore, the resulting molecular geometry is bent. Now that we know the molecular geometry, we can determine the bond angle to be about 105 degrees.

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