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Theories of Acids and Bases

Updated: Apr 25

An overview of three theories used to describe acids and bases.

Arrhenius Theory

Arrhenius Acids - produce H+ ions in water H+(aq) Arrhenius Bases - produce OH– ions in water OH-(aq)

The theory explains the reaction between H+ and OH- to give water (neutralisation)


The definition is not applicable to:

  • a base that doesn’t contain OH– for example ammonia

  • species that are part of gaseous systems, such as hydrogen chloride

  • species that are insoluble.

Brønsted–Lowry Theory

THE definition for A Level Chemistry:

Brønsted acid - H+/proton donor Brønsted base - H+/proton acceptor

Much more general than the Arrhenius Theory

Species need not be soluble in water.

A Brønsted base doesn’t need to form OH-.

Lewis Theory

Lewis acids are electron pair acceptors Lewis bases are electron pair donors