Functional Group

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In organic chemistry functional groups are submolecular structural motifs, characterized by specific elemental composition and connectivity, that confer reactivity upon the molecule that contains them.

Common functional groups include:

Chemical class Group Formula Prefix Suffix
Amines primary Amine R−NH2 amino- -amine
secondary Amine R−N(−H)−R' amino- -amine
tertiary Amine R−N(−R')−R amino- -amine
Imines primary Imine R−C(=NH)−R' imino- -imine
secondary Imine R−C(−H)=N−R' imino- -imine
Amide Amide R−C(=O)N(−H)−R' name according to the parent amine and acid, respectively: alkyl alkanamide  
Azo Azo R-N=N-R'    
  Nitrile R−C≡N alkyl nitrile  
  Pyridyl R−C5H4N    
Carboxylic acid Carboxyl R−C(=O)OH hydrocarboxy- -oic acid
Alcohol Hydroxyl R−OH hydroxy- -ol
Carbonyl Aldehyde R−C(=O)H   -al
Ketone R−C(=O)−R' keto- -one
Ester Ester R−C(=O)O−R' named according to the parent alcohol and acid, respectively: alkyl alkanoate  
Ether Ether R−O−R' named according to the parent alcohols, respectively: alkylalkylether  
Alkanes Methyl R−CH3 methyl- (similarly for higher alkyl substituents: ethyl, propyl, butyl, etc.)  
Alkenes Alkene R−CH=CH−R' convert the part substituting for alk in the name of the alkane into the alk of the word alkene: ethane/ethene, propane/propene, butane/butene, etc. -ene
Alkynes Alkyne R−CC−R' convert the part substituting for alk in the name of the alkane into the alk of the word alkyne: ethane/ethyne, propane/propyne, butane/butyne, etc. -yne
Phenyl Phenyl R−C6H5    
  Phosphodiester R−OP(=O)2O−R'    
Isocyantes Isocyanate R−N=C=O alkyl isocyanate  
Isothiocyanate R−N=C=S alkyl isothiocyanate  
  Thioether R−S−R'    

Combining the names of functional groups with the names of the parent alkanes generates a powerful systematic nomenclature for naming organic compounds.

The non-hydrogen atoms of functional groups are always associated with each by covalent bonds, as well as with the rest of the molecule. When the group of atoms is associated with the rest of the molecule primarily by ionic forces, the group is referred to more properly as a polyatomic ion or complex ion. And all of these are called radicalss, by a meaning of the term radical that predates the free radical.

The first carbon after the carbon that attaches to the functional group is called the alpha carbon.