Use of grammar in chemistry

Example 1

We have learnt that the conjunction and implies addition (+).

Let’s consider following question from a chemistry test.

Balance the equation for the following reaction:

  • Sodium hydroxide and ammonium chloride form ammonium chloride, ammonia and water.
Step Grammatical analysis Language of chemistry
1 Compound subject is implied by and. There are two reactants.

Implication: Place these reactants side-by-side on a line. Replace and by a +.

2 Form is in present tense, a plural action verb. In a chemical equation, form can be depicted by the symbol ?.

Other action verbs which stand for the symbol are as follows:

• yield
• produce

Implication: Substitute these action verbs with ?.

3 The words in green are the direct objects. There are three products. As seen in the sentence, products are placed to the right of the arrow.

Implication: Place these products to the right of the arrow.

4 The commas and and implies that the direct objects are compound.

No. of objects = No. of commas + and + 1 (UK punctuation)

In the equation, following substitutions can be made:

,      =  +



Therefore, the word equation can be written as follows:

Sodium hydroxide and ammonium chloride form sodium chloride, ammonia and water


Sodium hydroxide + ammonium chloride ? sodium chloride + ammonia + water

Its chemical equation:

NaOH + NH4Cl ? NaCl + NH3? + H20

Example 2

Write an equation to describe the reaction which occurs when propane burns.

when clause = subject + predicate = propane burns

Burns (an action verb) = combines with O2

C3H8 + 5O2 ? CO2 + H20

Example 3

Write an equation for the formation of sulphur trioxide from oxygen and sulphur dioxide.

Word/phrase Interpretation in chemistry
from the reactants follow
and (implies plural) more than one reactant
for the formation of singular product

O2 + 2SO2 ? 2SO3

Is grammar applicable in chemistry or other sciences?

Yes, it is.

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