Acids and Bases

Acids and bases are popular chemicals which interact with each other resulting in the formation of salt and water. The word acid comes from a Latin word ‘acere’ which means ‘sour’.

Table of Contents

In our everyday lives, we use many compounds which scientists call acids. The orange or grapefruit juice you drink for breakfast contains citric acid (also known as Vitamin C). When milk turns sour, it contains lactic acid. The vinegar used in salad dressing contains acetic acid. According to this, a chemical bond is considered as being made up of an acid-base combination. The properties of a molecule, therefore, can be understood by dividing it into acid and base fragments.

Related Topics

  1. Acids, Bases, and Salts
  2. Ionization Of Acids And Bases
  3. Acid Strength
  4. Acid Base Titration
  5. Difference Between Acid and Base

Acids and Bases Definition

An acid is any hydrogen-containing substance that is capable of donating a proton (hydrogen ion) to another substance.  A base is a molecule or ion able to accept a hydrogen ion from an acid.

Acidic substances are usually identified by their sour taste. An acid is basically a molecule which can donate an H+ ion and can remain energetically favourable after a loss of H+. Acids are known to turn blue litmus red.

Bases, on the other hand, are characterized by a bitter taste and a slippery texture. A base that can be dissolved in water is referred to as an alkali. When these substances chemically react with acids, they yield salts. Bases are known to turn red litmus blue.

Acid Definition Chemistry

The terms acid and base have been defined in different ways, depending on the particular way of looking at the properties of acidity and basicity. Arrhenius first defined acids as compounds which ionize to produce hydrogen ions, and bases as compounds which ionize to produce hydroxide ions. According to the Lowry-Bronsted definition, an acid is a proton donor and a base is a proton acceptor.

According to the Lewis definition, acids are molecules or ions capable of coordinating with unshared electron pairs, and bases are molecules or ions having unshared electron pairs available for sharing with acids. To be acidic in the Lewis sense, a molecule must be electron deficient. This is the most general acid base concept. All Lowery Bronstead acids are Lewis acids but, in addition, the Lewis definition includes many other reagents such as boron trifluoride, aluminium chloride, etc.

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Theories of Acids and Bases

Three different theories have been put forth in order to define acids and bases. These theories include the Arrhenius theory, the Bronsted-Lowry theory, and the Lewis theory of acids and bases. A brief description of each of these theories is provided in this subsection.  Acids and bases can be defined via three different theories.

  • The Arrhenius theory of acids and bases states that “an acid generates H+ ions in a solution whereas a base produces an OH ion in its solution”.
  • The Bronsted-Lowry theory defines “an acid as a proton donor and a base as a proton acceptor”.
  • Finally, the Lewis definition of acids and bases describes “acids as electron-pair acceptors and bases as electron-pair donors”.

Also Check ⇒ Dilute Acids

pH of Acids and Bases

In order to find the numeric value of the level of acidity or basicity of a substance, the pH scale (wherein pH stands for ‘potential of hydrogen’) can be used. The pH scale is the most common and trusted way to measure how acidic or basic a substance is. A pH scale measure can vary from 0 to 14, where 0 is the most acidic and 14 is the most basic a substance can be.

Another way to check if a substance is acidic or basic is to use litmus paper. There are two types of litmus paper available that can be used to identify acids and bases – red litmus paper and blue litmus paper. Blue litmus paper turns red under acidic conditions and red litmus paper turns blue under basic or alkaline conditions.

Acids and Bases

Litmus Test of Acids and Bases

Properties of Acids and Bases

1. Properties of Acids

  • Acids are corrosive in nature.
  • They are good conductors of electricity.
  • Their pH values are always less than 7.
  • When reacted with metals, these substances produce hydrogen gas.
  • Acids are sour in taste.
  • Examples: Sulfuric acid [H2SO4], Hydrochloric acid [HCl], Acetic acid [CH3COOH].

2. Properties of Bases

Some properties, like a bitter taste, are owned by all bases. The bases feel slippery, too. Dream on what slippery soap looks like. And this is a foundation. Furthermore, when immersed in water, bases conduct electricity because they consist of charged particles in the solution.

  • They are found to have a soapy texture when touched.
  • These substances release hydroxide ions (OH ions) when dissolved in water.
  • In their aqueous solutions, bases act as good conductors of electricity.
  • The pH values corresponding to bases are always greater than 7.
  • Bases are bitter-tasting substances which have the ability to turn red litmus paper blue.
  • Examples: Sodium hydroxide [NaOH], milk of magnesia [Mg(OH)2], calcium hydroxide [Ca(OH)2].

3. Neutral Substances

The neutral substance is a substance which is not acidic or basic, has the same amount of hydrogen and hydroxyl ions, and does not alter the colour of the litmus surface.

  • These substances do not display any acidic or basic characteristics.
  • Their pH values approximate to 7.
  • Neutral substances have no effect on red or blue litmus paper.
  • The pH of pure water is exactly 7.
  • Examples: Water, Common salt (NaCl)

Difference between Acids and Bases

Acids Bases
Acid gives off hydrogen ions when dissolved in water. Bases give off hydroxyl ion when dissolved in water.
It turns blue colour litmus paper into red. It turns red colour litmus paper into blue.
It has a sour taste. It has bitter taste and soapy to touch.
Its pH value ranges from 1 to 7. Its pH value ranges from 7 to 14.
Example: HCl, H2SO4 etc. Example: NaOH, KOH etc.

Arrhenius Concept of Acids and Bases

  • The Swedish scientist Svante August Arrhenius defined acids as substances that increase the H+ ion concentration of water when dissolved in it.
  • These protons go on to form hydronium ions (H3O+) by combining with water molecules.
  • Similarly, the Arrhenius definition of a base states that bases are the substances that, when dissolved in water, increase the concentration of OH ions in it.
  • One of the merits of this theory is that it successfully explains the reaction between acids and bases that yield salts and water.
  • An important limitation of the Arrhenius definitions of acids and bases is that it fails to explain how substances lacking hydroxide ions form basic solutions when dissolved in water, such as NO2 and F.

Bronsted Lowry Theory of Acids and Bases

  • The Bronsted-Lowry theory defines an acid as a donor of protons.
  • A base is defined as a proton acceptor (or H+ ion acceptor) by this theory.
  • Bronsted acids undergo dissociation to yield protons and therefore increase the concentration of H+ ions in the solution.
  • On the other hand, Bronsted bases accept protons from water (the solvent) to yield hydroxide ions.
  • An advantage of the Bronsted-Lowry definition of acids and bases is its ability to explain the acidic or basic nature of ionic species.
  • An important limitation of this theory is that it fails to explain how compounds lacking hydrogen exhibit acidic properties, such as BF3 and AlCl3.

Conjugate Acids and Bases

  • According to Bronsted-Lowry concept,  an acid is a substance that can donate H+ and base is a substance that can accept H+.
  • The acid and base which differ by proton , are said to form conjugate acid and base pair.
  •  A conjugate acid is formed when a proton is added to a base, and a conjugate base is formed when a proton is removed from an acid.

Examples: Consider the following reaction,

CH3COOH  +  H2O  ⇋  CH3COO  + H3O+ 

In this above equation Acid: CH3COOH   , Conjugate Base : CH3COO

                                      Base: H2O  ,  Conjugate Acid: H3O+

Note: Conjugate Acid form by adding H+ ion on base,  Conjugate base form by removing H+ ion from acid.

Lewis Concept of Acids and Bases

  • The Lewis definition of an acid states that it is a species that has a vacant orbital and therefore, has the ability to accept an electron pair.
  • A Lewis base is a species that holds a lone pair of electrons and can, therefore, act as an electron-pair donor.
  • This theory does not involve the hydrogen atom in its definition of acids and bases.
  • Lewis acids are electrophilic in nature whereas Lewis Bases possess nucleophilic qualities.
  • Examples of Lewis acids: Cu2+, BF3, and Fe3+. Examples of Lewis bases: F, NH3, and C2H4 (ethylene).
  • A Lewis acid accepts an electron pair from a Lewis base, forming a coordinate covalent bond in the process. The resulting compound is referred to as a Lewis adduct.
  • A notable advantage of this concept is that many compounds can be defined as acids or bases by it. However, it offers little insight into the strength of these acids and bases.
  • One of the disadvantages of this theory is that it fails to explain the acid-base reactions that do not involve the formation of a coordinate covalent bond.

Uses of Acids and Bases

The various uses of acids and bases are listed in this subsection.

1. Uses of Acids

  • Vinegar, a diluted solution of acetic acid, has various household applications. It is primarily used as a food preservative.
  • Citric acid is an integral part of lemon juice and orange juice. It can also be used in the preservation of food.
  • Sulphuric acid acid is widely used in batteries. The batteries used to start the engines of automobiles commonly contain this acid.
  • The industrial production of explosives, dyes, paints, and fertilizers involves the use of sulphuric acid acid and nitric acid.
  • Phosphoric acid is a key ingredient in many soft drinks.

2. Uses of Bases

  • The manufacturing of soap and paper involves the use of sodium hydroxide. NaOH is also used in the manufacture of rayon.
  • Ca(OH)2, also known as slaked lime or calcium hydroxide, is used to manufacture bleaching powder.
  • Dry mixes used in painting or decoration are made with the help of calcium hydroxide.
  • Magnesium hydroxide, also known as milk of magnesia, is commonly used as a laxative. It also reduces any excess acidity in the human stomach and is, therefore, used as an antacid.
  • Ammonium hydroxide is a very important reagent used in laboratories.
  • Any excess acidity in soils can be neutralized by employing slaked lime.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs


How do you identify acids and bases?

To decide whether a substance is an acid or base, count the hydrogens on each substance before and after the reaction. If the number has decreased that substance is the acid (which donates hydrogen ions) . If the number of hydrogens has increased that substance is the base (accepts hydrogen ions)


What makes something an acid or a base?

An acid is a contributing product containing hydrogen ions. If the solution contains more hydronium ions (H3O+)  than hydroxyl ions (OH-) , then the given solution is a acid.  Similarly, if the solution contains more hydroxyl ions (OH-) than hydrogen ions (H+) , then the given solution is a base.


What is base and example?

The sodium hydroxide, calcium carbonate and potassium oxide are examples of bases. A base is a material that interacts with hydrogen ions and can neutralize the acid. Bases are classified as acceptors of a proton (H+), and ammonium hydroxide are typical examples of the bases.


What is an acid and its properties?

Acids are ionic compounds that, when dissolved in water, produce positive hydrogen ions ( H+) When dissolved in water, acids are sour in taste, conduct electricity and react with metals to produce hydrogen gas. Certain indicator compounds may be used to detect acids, such as litmus. Acids turn blue litmus red.


What is the main difference between an acid and a base?

Two types of corrosive compounds are the acids and bases. Any material with a pH value between 0 and 7 is known to be acidic while a pH value between 7 and 14 is a base. whereas, bases are ionic compounds that produce hydroxide ions(OH-) when dissolved in water.


What is the importance of acid?

Acids play significant roles within the human body. The presence of hydrochloric acid in the stomach helps digestion by breaking down large and complex food molecules. Amino acids are required for protein synthesis which helps to grow and repair body tissues.


What is base and example?

The sodium hydroxide, calcium carbonate and potassium oxide are examples of bases. A base is a substance that reacts with hydrogen ions and can neutralize the acid. Most bases are minerals which form water and salts by reacting with acids. Bases include the metal oxides, hydroxides, and carbonates.


How do you identify a base?

To decide whether a substance is an acid or base, count the hydrogens on each substance before and after the reaction. If the number has decreased that substance is the acid (which donates hydrogen ions) . If the number of hydrogens has increased that substance is the base (accepts hydrogen ions).


What are the physical properties of the base?

Base taste bitter has a soapy texture and releases hydroxide ions when dissolved in water. They are good conductors of electricity and have a pH value of more than seven. Sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide are some examples of bases.

Can acid react with metals?

Yes, acids do react with the metal to form the corresponding salt and liberate hydrogen gas.
2 M + 2 HX → 2 MX + H2

Thus, the definition, general properties, and uses of acids and bases are briefly discussed in this article. To learn more about these substances and how they neutralize each other, register with BYJU’S and download the mobile application on your smartphone.

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  1. Well simplified and accurate content. Thankyou Byju’s.