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Ionic Charges

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On my periodic table, there are multiple ionic charges listed for some elements. I assume this is because there are multiple possible ions. However, I have a homework question that asks for the ionic charge of an atom, and does not give a number of electrons. For example, a Sulfur ion: On my periodic table, it lists the charges 6, + or - 2, and 4. Are they all equally possible, or is there a "right" answer? If the latter, how do I know?

Thanks!

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They are all possible, depending on the circumstance. There are some elements that will only exist in one oxidation state other than 0, and from those you can normally garner the oxidation state and charge of other elements. In your case my suspicion is that you are only being asked to look at the more easily explained ions that result from the gain or loss of electrons to satisfy the octet. In the case of sulfur, that would make the ion 2-, since it only needs to gain 2 electrons in order to do this. 

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18 hours ago, RootDirectory said:

On my periodic table, there are multiple ionic charges listed for some elements. I assume this is because there are multiple possible ions. However, I have a homework question that asks for the ionic charge of an atom, and does not give a number of electrons. For example, a Sulfur ion: On my periodic table, it lists the charges 6, + or - 2, and 4. Are they all equally possible, or is there a "right" answer? If the latter, how do I know?

Thanks!

 

It would be useful to both yourself and us if you posted the exact question since I doubt very much if any teacher has asked about

"The ionic charges of an atom"

It is a very very basic fact that atoms are electrically neutral.

Adding or taking away electrons makes them into negatively or positively charge ions.

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It is also possible to take the value +6 and -2. However, removing electrons from an atom is difficult and requires a lot of power. For this reason, in general, the atom prefers minimum conditions to complement itself to octte. We can understand this preference by looking at the electronegativity of the atom.

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