Identify the general structure for an alcohol. Identify the structural feature that classifies alcohols as primary, secondary, or tertiary. Name alcohols with both common names and IUPAC names

An alcohol is an organic compound with a hydroxyl (OH) functional group on an aliphatic carbon atom. Because OH is the functional group of all alcohols, we often represent alcohols by the general formula ROH, where R is an alkyl group. Alcohols are common in nature. Most people are familiar with ethyl alcohol (ethanol), the active ingredient in alcoholic beverages, but this compound is only one of a family of organic compounds known as alcohols. The family also includes such familiar substances as cholesterol and the carbohydrates. Methanol (CH3OH) and ethanol (CH3CH2OH) are the first two members of the homologous series of alcohols.

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Nomenclature of Alcohols

Alcohols with one to four carbon atoms are frequently called by common names, in which the name of the alkyl group is followed by the word alcohol:


According to the International Union of Pure and Applied civicpride-kusatsu.netistry (IUPAC), alcohols are named by changing the ending of the parent alkane name to -ol. Here are some basic IUPAC rules for naming alcohols:

The longest continuous chain (LCC) of carbon atoms containing the OH group is taken as the parent compound—an alkane with the same number of carbon atoms. The chain is numbered from the end nearest the OH group. The number that indicates the position of the OH group is prefixed to the name of the parent hydrocarbon, and the -e ending of the parent alkane is replaced by the suffix -ol. (In cyclic alcohols, the carbon atom bearing the OH group is designated C1, but the 1 is not used in the name.) Substituents are named and numbered as in alkanes. If more than one OH group appears in the same molecule (polyhydroxy alcohols), suffixes such as -diol and -triol are used. In these cases, the -e ending of the parent alkane is retained.

Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\) shows some examples of the application of these rules.

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Classification of Alcohols

Some of the properties of alcohols depend on the number of carbon atoms attached to the specific carbon atom that is attached to the OH group. Alcohols can be grouped into three classes on this basis.

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A primary (1°) alcohol is one in which the carbon atom (in red) with the OH group is attached to one other carbon atom (in blue). Its general formula is RCH2OH.
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