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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.

George Doyle, 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.

  • 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

    Learn More About Synthesis Reactions

  • 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


  • Single Displacement or Substitution Reaction
    A substitution or single displacement reaction is characterized by one element being displaced from a compound by another element.

    A + BC → AC + B

    An example of a substitution reaction occurs when zinc combines with hydrochloric acid. The zinc replaces the hydrogen:

    Zn + 2 HCl → ZnCl2 + H2


  • 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


  • 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)


  • 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

    Learn More About Combustion Reactions


  • Isomerization
    In an isomerization reaction, the stuctural 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)

10 Examples of Chemical Reactions in Everyday Life

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