Problem: Use covalent Lewis structures to explain why the compound that forms between nitrogen and hydrogen has the formula NH3. Show why NH2 and NH4 are not stable.

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We’re asked to explain why the compound that forms between nitrogen and hydrogen has the formula NH3 and to show why NH2 and NH4 are not stable using covalent Lewis structures.


Recall that using Lewis structures, a stable compound:

  • Satisfies the octet rule → 8 valence e- surrounding each atom in the structure 
    • Except for:
      • H forms only one (1) bond: 2 valence e- 
      • B, Al  → has fewer electrons to reach 8 valence e-  
      • P, S →  expanded octet: can accommodate more than 8 valence e-  
  • Has an even number of total valence electrons
    • odd-number indicates a radical (unpaired electron)


We first need to determine the total number of valence electrons present in each structure:


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Problem Details

Use covalent Lewis structures to explain why the compound that forms between nitrogen and hydrogen has the formula NH3. Show why NH2 and NH4 are not stable.

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What scientific concept do you need to know in order to solve this problem?

Our tutors have indicated that to solve this problem you will need to apply the Lewis Dot Structure concept. You can view video lessons to learn Lewis Dot Structure. Or if you need more Lewis Dot Structure practice, you can also practice Lewis Dot Structure practice problems.