Why does hydrogen give an electron instead of receiving one?

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2007-05-08 23:39:00

Whether or not hydrogen (or any atom or molecule) gives or

receives electrons depends on the nature of the thing it is

interacting with. If the other atom is more electronegative than

hydrogen, it will take an electron from hydrogen. If hydrogen is

the more electronegative species, hydrogen will take the electron.

There are many reactions in which electrons are donated or

received, and to understand them, you must look at the nature of

the two species involved in the exchange. Primarily the answer will

depend on the relative electronegativity of the two atoms (or for

molecules, their relative nucleophilicity or electrophilicity). One

way to think about it is like a game of tug-of-war. If two people

pull in opposite directions on a piece of rope, whoever is stronger

will pull the rope towards them. In the same way, whichever

molecule "wants" the electron more will take it from the other.

What makes a molecule or atom "want" an electron more than another

is another topic...

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