Types of Chemical Reactions

List of Common Reactions and Examples

Many color change demonstrations are examples of acid-base reactions.
Many color change demonstrations are examples of acid-base reactions. John Smith / Getty Images

A chemical reaction is a process that is usually characterized by a chemical change in which the starting materials (reactants) are different from the products. Chemical reactions tend to involve the motion of electrons, leading to the formation and breaking of chemical bonds. There are several different types of chemical reactions and more than one way of classifying them. Here are some common reaction types.

However, if you are asked to name the main 4, 5 or 6 types of chemical reactions, here is how they are categorized.

Oxidation-Reduction or Redox Reaction

In a redox reaction,​ the oxidation numbers of atoms are changed. Redox reactions may involve the transfer of electrons between chemical species.

The reaction that occurs when In which I2 is reduced to I- and S2O32- (thiosulfate anion) is oxidized to S4O62- provides an example of a redox reaction:

2 S2O32−(aq) + I2(aq) → S4O62−(aq) + 2 I(aq)

  • Direct Combination or Synthesis Reaction

    In a synthesis reaction, two or more chemical species combine to form a more complex product.

    A + B → AB

    The combination of iron and sulfur to form iron (II) sulfide is an example of a synthesis reaction:

    8 Fe + S8 → 8 FeS

  • Chemical Decomposition or Analysis Reaction

    In a decomposition reaction, a compound is broken into smaller chemical species.

    AB → A + B

    The electrolysis of water into oxygen and hydrogen gas is an example of a decomposition reaction:

    2 H2O → 2 H2 + O2

  • Metathesis or Double Displacement Reaction

    In a double displacement or metathesis reaction two compounds exchange bonds or ions in order to form different compounds.

    AB + CD → AD + CB

    An example of a double displacement reaction occurs between sodium chloride and silver nitrate to form sodium nitrate and silver chloride.

    NaCl(aq) + AgNO3(aq) → NaNO3(aq) + AgCl(s)

  • Acid-Base Reaction

    An acid-base reaction is type of double displacement reaction that occurs between an acid and a base. The H+ ion in the acid reacts with the OH- ion in the base to form water and an ionic salt:

    HA + BOH → H2O + BA

    The reaction between hydrobromic acid (HBr) and sodium hydroxide is an example of an acid-base reaction:

    HBr + NaOH → NaBr + H2O

  • Combustion

    A combustion reaction is a type of redox reaction in which a combustible material combines with an oxidizer to form oxidized products and generate heat (exothermic reaction). Usually, ​in a combustion reaction oxygen combines with another compound to form carbon dioxide and water. An example of a combustion reaction is the burning of naphthalene:

    C10H8 + 12 O2 → 10 CO2 + 4 H2O

  • Isomerization

    In an isomerization reaction, the structural arrangement of a compound is changed but its net atomic composition remains the same.

  • Hydrolysis Reaction

    A hydrolysis reaction involves water. The general form for a hydrolysis reaction is:

    X-(aq) + H2O(l) ↔ HX(aq) + OH-(aq)