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Question

What is the difference between
(a) an alkali and base?
(b) an alkali and a metal hydroxide?

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Solution


(a)
Alkali Base

An alkali is a basic hydroxide that is soluble in water. It produces hydroxyl (OH-) ions as the only negatively charged ions when dissolved in water. Examples include NaOH, Ca(OH)2 and KOH.
A base is a compound that contains displaceable oxide (O2-) or hydroxide (OH-) ion or ions. It reacts with H+ or H3O+ ions present in an acid to produce a salt and water. Examples include NaOH, CuO and Fe(OH)3.

Bases that are soluble in water are alkalis. NaOH, KOH and Ca(OH)2 are water-soluble bases; thus, they are alkalis.

A few bases like ferric hydroxide and cupric hydroxides are not soluble in water; thus, they are not alkalis.

(b)
Alkali Metal Hydroxide

An alkali is a basic hydroxide that is soluble in water. It produces hydroxyl (OH-) ions as the only negatively charged ions when dissolved in water. Examples include NaOH, NH3Ca(OH)2 and NH3.​
A metal hydroxide is a basic salt of a metal. It may be soluble or insoluble in water. Examples include NaOH, Ca(OH)2, Fe(OH)3 and Cu(OH)2.

An alkali can be a water-soluble metal hydroxide. Examples include NaOH, NH3 and Ca(OH)2.
A metal hydroxide may or may not be an alkali.

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