Condensed Formula Definition in Chemistry

It indicates the bonds between the atoms in a molecule

Elementary student examining molecule model

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The condensed formula of a molecule is the formula where the symbols of atoms are listed in order as they appear in the molecule's structure with bond dashes omitted or limited. While vertical bonds are always omitted, sometimes horizontal bonds are included to indicate polyatomic groups. Parentheses in a condensed formula indicate the polyatomic group is attached to the central atom to the right of the parentheses. A true condensed formula can be written on a single line without any branching above or below it.

Condensed Formula Examples

Hexane is a six-carbon hydrocarbon with a molecular formula of C6H14. The molecular formula lists the number and type of atoms but gives no indication of the bonds between them. The condensed formula is CH3(CH2)4CH3. Although less commonly used, the condensed formula of hexane could also be written as CH3CH2CH2CH2CH2CH3. It's easier to visualize a molecule from its condensed formula than from its molecular formula, particularly when there are multiple ways the chemical bonds could form.

Two ways to write a condensed formula of propan-2-ol are CH3CH(OH)CH3 and (CH3)CHOH.

More examples of condensed formulas include:

propene: CH3CH=CH2

isopropyl methyl ether: (CH3)2CHOCH3

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Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Condensed Formula Definition in Chemistry." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2020, August 28). Condensed Formula Definition in Chemistry. Retrieved from Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Condensed Formula Definition in Chemistry." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 30, 2023).