What Is the Difference Between a Chemical Reaction and Chemical Equation?

Chemical Equation Versus Chemical Reaction

A chemical equation describes the reactants, products, and quantities of chemicals in a reaction.
A chemical equation describes the reactants, products, and quantities of chemicals in a reaction. Jeffrey Coolidge / Getty Images

What is the difference between a chemical reaction and the chemical equation? The terms are often used interchangeably, but they are technically different terms.

A chemical reaction is the process that occurs when one or more substances are changed into one or more new substances.

For example:

A chemical equation is a symbolic representation of a chemical reaction. Atomic symbols are used to represent the elements that take part in a reaction. Numbers are used to represent the ratios of reactants and products to produce the reaction and arrows point the direction a reaction occurs where the arrow points from reactants to products.

For example, using for the above chemical reactions:

    To review:

    Chemical reactions are processes where reactants become new products.
    Chemical equations are symbolic representation of chemical reactions.