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What Is The Difference Between Molecular Geometry And Electron Geometry? (Explained)

What Is The Difference Between Molecular Geometry And Electron Geometry? (Explained)

Anything and everything has a pattern to follow and function accordingly, and these functions, methods, approaches, and strategies are all together in the biggest and the vastest branch of science, which is mathematics. According to the father of mathematics, Archimedes, it has shaped the world by introducing people to unique counting and calculating perspectives.

To narrow it further, geometry itself is divided into two more broad categories, namely Molecular Geometry and Electron Geometry, which basically refer to the positioning and ordering of electrons, neutrons, and atoms in order to provide specific and most suitable angles, positions, and shapes to molecules.

Molecular geometry is basically the configuration of atoms in a molecule, mostly comparative to one central atom, whereas the configuration of pairs of electrons around a central atom is called electron geometry.

These distinctive and conceptual branches of geometry are discussed extensively in this article.

Molecular Geometry: 3-Dimensional Shape

The characterization of atoms in a molecule arranged in a 3-dimensional space is known as molecular geometry. Some approaches, like spectroscopy and diffraction analysis, are usually deployed for understanding molecular geometry.

Certain theories are utilized to help in getting information about the configuration of molecules like hybridization theory, Lewis concept, and VSEPR theory.

A central atom surrounded by Electron Pairs
A central atom is surrounded by electron pairs

Hybridization Theory

Hybridization theory describes the presence of covalent bonds in atomic molecules. 

The process of mixing orbitals having the same energy but different in shape to form hybrid orbitals with the same number, shape, and energy is the basic process of hybridization.

Types of Hybridization:

Some types of hybridization are as follows:

  • sp hybridization: 1s and 1p orbitals
  • sp² hybridization: 1s and 2p orbitals
  • sp³ hybridization: 1s and 3p orbitals

Lewis Theory

An American scientist (G.N. Lewis) first introduced the concept that each atom shares two electrons to form a covalent bond by bond pairing, whereas the pair of electrons uninvolved in any type of bonding is called a lone pair.

Lone Pairs

It has been observed theoretically and practically that molecular geometry does not possess lone pairs in its central atom in the molecule due to the more incredible amount of space that it occupies than a single bond would settle in the molecule throughout the central atom.

This could be one of the top critical points among many behind the absence of lone pairs of electrons in Molecular Geometry. Not only this, according to studies, lone pairs can be found in orbitals where electron bonding is present.

The reason behind occupying more space than electron bonds is that lone pairs are captivated by the nucleus; this concludes as these lone pairs are being spread and functioning near the nucleus with some space.

Valence Shell Electron Pair Repulsion Theory

VSEPR stands for (Valence shell electron pair repulsion); this is the leading mechanism and theory that has proved to be the most helpful factor in the context of determination and prediction of shapes and structural behaviors of the molecule.

Some benefits and critical aspects of the VSEPR charts are that they help with molecular shape prediction. Still, apart from that, it provides electron group identification and electronic structure and assigns AXmEn to the molecules with the identification of bonds and angles.

VSEPR charts also provide three-dimensional molecular geometrical prediction and deep understanding based on the quantity of electron bond pairs and the valence shell of an atom in the molecule. It is widely used for the minimization of repulsion effects along with an auto-arrangement of electron bond pairs.

Central Atoms and space
Central Atoms and Space

Electron Geometry

The configuration of pairs of electrons revolving around a central atom is termed electron geometry. It includes the existence of lone pairs and pairs of bonds, as well as the determination of the shape of a molecule in an atom. It is usually specified by the electron pairs.

Types of Electron Geometry

Electron geometry is classified into various types according to electron groups.

Linear Type of Electron Geometry

It involves bonding between the central atom and two electron pairs at 180 degrees of angle, forming a straight-line shape.

Trigonal Planar Type of Electron Geometry

The central atom with three electron pairs at 120-degree angles is termed a trigonal planar arranged in a flat shape.

Tetrahedral Type of Electron Geometry

The central atom is encircled by four pairs of electrons bonding at an angle of 109.5 degrees, arranged in the form of a tetrahedron.

Trigonal Bipyramidal Type of Electron Geometry

A central atom bonds with five pairs of electrons at 120 degrees of angle, forming a trigonal shape with three pairs and 90 degrees of angle with two pairs.

Octahedral Type of Electron Geometry

A central atom with six pairs of bonding electrons forms 90 degrees of an angle. This arrangement gives the shape of two pyramids with an attached square base.

Distinguishing Factors Between Molecular and Electron Geometry

FeaturesMolecular GeometryElectron Geometry
Basic ConceptMolecular Geometry deals with the understanding and determination of the whole atom and its organization. These atoms are merely present in molecules, and this branch of geometry has all the positioning in 3D.Whereas Electron Geometry has all the concepts regarding the positioning and organization of numerous electrons.
Lone PairsIn the process of regulating the shape of molecules, this type of geometry keeps lone pairs out. However, lone pairs are considered when repulsion is required in angle and bonding. While Electron geometry is the opposite of molecule geometry, it does consider not only lone pairs but also bond pairs for the determination of a molecule’s shape.
CalculationsIt calculates the total quantity of bond pairs of electrons in the process.It calculates the total quantity of electron pairs in the process.
ExamplesAs an example, we are breaking down H₂O (water) structure; it has O (oxygen) as a central atom in the molecule (along with 6 valence electrons of O), 2 electrons are donated by the hydrogen atom and 8 electrons are surrounding N (nitrogen), 4 electron groups along with 2 lone pairs and single bond pairs in electrons. Moreover, this type is also called Bent.As an example, we are breaking down CH₄ (Methane); this substance has 4 central atoms in the molecule (along with 4 valence electrons of C (carbon), 4 electrons are donated by the Hydrogen atom and 8 electrons are surrounding C, 4 electron pairs and 4 single bonds are there along with no lone pairs. Further, this type is also called tetrahedral.
Molecular vs. Electron Geometry

Determination of Shape in Molecule and Electron Geometry

As we have already come to know so far, both are beneficial in their perspectives and conceptual studies. Some steps are concerned with the determination of shapes in both types of geometry, which are important to know about to be aware of the ongoing mechanisms.

Determination of Shape in Molecule and Electron Geometry
Determination of Shape in Molecule and Electron Geometry

For Molecular Geometry

  • As mentioned above, lone pairs are not contemplated and reviewed in the process of determining a molecule’s shape, but bonding is still required to keep the function in progress.
  •  So, single bonds work here for both (double and triple type of bonds, or they both are considered as a single bond)
  • In addition, the reason behind the consideration of bond pairs over lone pairs is that lone pairs often take up more space than bond pairs.
  • For the determination of an atom’s positions together with the shape of molecules, some geometrical parameters are kept into account, for example, bond angles and lengths, and torsional angles.
  • These parameters help in providing significant effects in the form of properties like reactivity, color, polarity, magnetism, etc.

For Electron Geometry

  • For shape, the prophecy of an atom in a molecule is important in the way that this prognosticated atom must possess high electron negativity in terms of potential.
  • This atom should be central in the molecule, and its configurations, like the number of valence electrons it possesses, should be determined.
  • As this is a process, other atoms are supposed to be there, and their donated electron quantity must be calculated.
  • Calculate the number of electrons that are neighboring central atoms in a molecule.
  • For the determination of the total number of electron groups that are present, we are supposed to subtract the count of total neighboring electrons from (2) so that we can have the required result.
  • For the determination of the total count of lone pairs of electrons in the molecule, we need to perform a subtraction of a steric number from the number of single bonds that are present all over the central atom in the molecule.
  • Lastly, deep analysis and understanding of electron geometry are required to be determined.
  • One additional point to bring to your notice is that there is a chance of similarity in both types of geometry if lone pairs are excluded from the molecule through which central atoms are surrounded.
Watch the video to learn how to determine the shape of molecules


  • The difference is based on calculations, and its scale still counts; that leads us to say that although electron geometry does not consider lone pairs in its structure, it is still a critical study as it helps us understand many substantial properties which play a prominent role in the predictions of many molecular structures and their shapes.
  • They can be considered the same if lone pairs are taken out or are not considered in the process in the central atom. This is the only distinguishing factor between these two types of geometry branches, and that is the underlying reason behind the emphasis on the presence of lone pairs of electrons in the central atom.
  • It can be concluded that both have many salient and essential concepts that can not be neglected and prioritized as they are both significant as long as chemicals are in this world and they are providing observable effects almost everywhere.

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