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Important Notes For Alcohols Phenols and Ethers

Last updated date: 24th May 2024
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Alcohol Phenol Ether Notes

Alcohol: The hydrogen of an aliphatic hydrocarbon is substituted by the group -OH (hydroxyl).

Phenol: An aromatic hydrocarbon's hydrogen is substituted by the -OH (hydroxyl) group.

Ethers: A hydrocarbon's hydrogen is substituted by the group -OR/-OAr (Alkoxy or Aryloxy).

This article focuses on the complete alcohol phenol and ether notes. So Students will be able to revise the chapter precisely. Besides studying textbooks students can refer to alcohols, phenols, and ethers notes.

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Classification of Alcohols, Phenols, and Ethers


  1. Alcohols are characterized as monohydric, dihydric, trihydric, and polyhydric depending on whether the alcohol contains one, two, three, or more than three hydroxyl groups present respectively.

  2. Further monohydric alcohols are classified into-

  • Compounds with Csp3-OH bond- Hydroxyl group is attached to an alkyl group containing sp3 hybridized carbon atom. It is further classified into primary, secondary, and tertiary alcohols.

  • Allylic Alcohols- hydroxyl group is attached to sp3 hybridized carbon atom adjacent to carbon-carbon double bond.

  • Benzylic Alcohols- Hydroxyl group attached to sp3 hybridized carbon atom adjacent to the aromatic ring.

  1. Compounds with Csp2-OH bond- the hydroxyl group attached to sp2 hybridized carbon atom. These alcohols are also known as vinylic alcohols.


Depending on the number of hydroxyl groups it is further classified into monohydric, dihydric, and polyhydric. 


There are two types of ethers-

  1. Symmetrical - The same groups are attached to O

  2. Unsymmetrical - Different groups are attached to O




  • Common name -'Alcohol 'associated with the alkyl group name, such as methyl alcohol, ethyl alcohol, etc. 

  • IUPAC - The suffix-'ol 'attached to the alkane name, such as methanol (CH3OH).


  • The simplest phenol is C6H5OH.

  • The OH group location is denoted by o (ortho), m (meta), p (para), or by cyclic carbon numbers, etc.


  • Common Name: The term 'ether' follows in alphabetical order the name of the alkyl groups, e.g. Ethyl Methyl ether, ether of diethyl, etc. 

  • IUPAC Name-derivative of hydrocarbons named as alkoxy or aryloxy.  The parent hydrocarbon is considered ad the bulkier group, e.g. Methoxymethane, Methoxybenzene, and so on



There is a bond between C and O  sp3 hybridized orbitals. 

  • Bond angle: 108.9 ° is the C-O-H bond angle, i.e. less than tetrahedral (109 °-28 '). It is caused by repulsion between Oxygen electron pairs 

  • Bond length: In Methanol, the C-O bond length is 142 pm.


There is a bond between C of the aromatic ring and O of sp2 hybridized orbitals. 

  • Bond angle: In Phenol, the C-O-H bond angle is 109° 

  • Bond length: The length of the C-O bond in Phenol is 136 pm. 

Due to the sp2 hybridization of Carbon, it is less compared to Methanol, and conjugation of pi electrons of the aromatic ring gives partial double bond character.


  • Bond angle: The angle of the C-O-C bond is 111.7 (Methoxymethane). 

  • It is more than tetrahedral because of the repulsion between the two classes of R (bulky) 

  • Bond length: The length of the C-O bond is 141 pm, approximately the same as alcohol


Alcohols can be prepared by-

  • Acid-catalyzed hydration of alkenes: According to Markovnikov’s addition, alkene in presence of acid reacts with water to form alcohols.

  • The hydroboration oxidation reaction of alkene: trialkyl borane form as an additional product on reacting diborane with alkenes.

  • Carbonyl compounds: Reduction of aldehydes and ketones: aldehydes and ketones are reduced by the addition of hydrogen in the presence of catalysts such as nickel, platinum, and palladium. Aldehyde gives rise to primary alcohols while ketones give rise to secondary alcohols.

  • Reduction of carboxylic acids and esters: In presence of strong reducing agents, lithium hydrogen hydride carboxylic acids are reduced to primary alcohols.

  • Grignard reagent: The addition of RMgX (Grignard reagent) to aldehyde and ketone give rise to alcohol.

Phenols Can be Prepared by-

  • Haloarenes: NaOH is treated with chlorobenzene to form sodium phenoxide, which is then treated with acid to form phenol.

 C6H5Cl + NaOH → C6H5ONa + HCl → C6H5OH

  • Benzene sulphonic acid: Sulphonation of benzene with oleum is the first step. Benzene sulphonic acid is heated to form sodium phenoxide with molten NaOH and then acidified from phenol.

  • Diazonium salt: Aniline (C6H5NH2): It reacts with NaNO2 + HCl forms Benzene diazonium chloride (C6H5N2Cl), which on hydrolysis give phenol.

  • Cumene (isopropylbenzene): It is oxidized and then treated with dilute acid to form phenol. Acetone in the reaction is a by-product.

Ethers Can be Prepared by

  • Dehydration of alcohols: The nucleophilic bimolecular reaction produces ether when primary alcohols are treated with protic acids (H2SO4, H3PO4). This reaction depends on the conditions, while alkene is a major product at 443 K and ether is a major product at 413 K. Elimination reaction competes with SN1 when alcohol is 2 ° or 3 °, resulting in alkene as the main product.

  • Williamson synthesis

Physical Properties


Boiling point: With the increase in the number of carbon atoms, Van der Waal forces, thus increasing the boiling point of alcohols.

Solubility: Alcohols are soluble in water as they form hydrogen bonds with water molecules.


Boiling point: Due to intermolecular hydrogen bonding, the boiling point of phenol is more as compared with other compounds such as arenes, ethers, haloarenes, etc.

Solubility: Solubility is due to intermolecular hydrogen bonding with water. It decreases with an increase in the hydrophobic part.


The boiling point is comparatively less than that of alcohols due to intermolecular hydrogen bonding in alcohols.

Owing to the formation of a hydrogen bond with water and O of ether, ether miscibility is equivalent to alcohol and more than alkane of the same molecular mass.

Acidity and Basicity


  • Bronsted acids can donate electrons to the Bronsted base.

  • Acidity is caused by the O-H bond's polarity. The acidity is reduced by the electron releasing alkyl groups, so the alcohol acidity order is: 1o > 2o > 3o degrees 

  • Water is a stronger donor of protons or more potent acid than alcohols 

  • Because of unshared electron pairs on oxygen, they also serve as a proton acceptor or Bronsted base


  • Benzene ring with the alcohol group acts as an electron-withdrawing group.  Oxygen electron pairs are paired with the double bond of the benzene ring, which makes OH oxygen positive. 

  • Phenols are acids that are stronger than water and alcohol. 

  • The more stable phenoxide ion and the more polar OH bond may clarify this. 

  • In the substituted phenols, the electron-withdrawing group (-NO2) makes it more acidic and the electron-donating groups (alkyl) reduce the acidity. 

  • Order of acidity:Nitrophenol > Phenol > Cresol > Ethanol

Ethers: Ethers are less acidic than aldehydes and ketones but more acidic than hydrocarbons

Chemical Reactions


  • Reactions in which alcohol (O-H bond cleavage) reacts as a Nucleophile: Reaction of alcohol with metal to form alkoxide.On the reaction of alcohols with carboxylic acids, acetic anhydride, and acid chloride to form esters.

  • Reactions in which there is C-O bond cleavage: Alcohol reacts with HX to form alkyl halide.

  • Undergo oxidation to form aldehyde and ketone.

  • On heating with Cu at 573K, alcohols undergo dehydrogenation


  • Reactions in which phenol (O-H bond cleavage) reacts as a Nucleophile: The reaction of phenol with NaOH to form sodium phenoxide.On the reaction of phenols with carboxylic acids, acetic anhydride, and acid chloride to form esters.

  • Reactions in which there is C-O bond cleavage:

C6H5OH + Zn → C6H6 + ZnO

  • Electrophilic substitution reaction

  1. Nitration

  2. Halogenation

  3. Kolbe reaction

  4. Reimer-Tiemann Reaction

  5. Oxidation


  • Absence of O-H bond in ethers

  • Reactions with CO bond cleavage

  • Electrophilic Substitution reaction

  • Friedel Crafts Reaction

Aromatic Hydrocarbon 

Aromatic Hydrocarbons are circularly structured organic compounds that contain sigma bonds along with delocalized pi electrons. They are also called arenes or aryl hydrocarbons. The aromatic hydrocarbons are unsaturated hydrocarbons that have 1 or more planar 6 carbon rings called benzene rings. Hydrogen atoms are attached to this ring. Many aromatic hydrocarbons have a benzene ring which is also called an aromatic ring. The aromatic ring is stabilized by resonance and the pi electrons are delocalized in a ring structure.

Properties of Aromatic Hydrocarbons

Benzene is the first compound that was classified as an aromatic hydrocarbon. Benzene is the most complex aryl hydrocarbon. All atoms belonging to the benzene ring have 2 carbon-carbon sigma bonds, 1 carbon-hydrogen sigma bond, and 1double bond with a neighboring carbon in which the pi-electron is delocalized.

This delocalization of pi electrons in the benzene molecule is defined by a circle inside the hexagon. The bond order of all carbon-carbon (C-C) bonds in this molecule is supposed to be 1.5. This equivalency can be explained with the assistance of the resonance structures of benzene.

Some general properties of aromatic hydrocarbons have been listed below.

  • Aromatic Hydrocarbons generally undergoes electrophilic substitutions & nucleophilic aromatic substitution reactions.

  • Aromatic Hydrocarbons display aromaticity which is the additional stability given by resonance.

  • The ratio of carbon atoms to hydrogen atoms is fairly high in Aromatic Hydrocarbons.

  • Aromatic Hydrocarbon, when burnt exhibits a strong and sooty flame which is yellow-colored.

Organic Solvents

Organic solvents are chemical compounds that have a carbon-based molecular structure and are widely operated in dissolving material. This is done either to create a solution or used in the extraction of 1 material from the other material. A solvent refers to a thing that is capable of dissolving any other thing. All these solvents contain carbon atoms in the configuration of compounds. The 3 types of solvents are-

  • Aliphatics solvents– Aliphatics solvents are solvents that belong to the category of alkenes and are stated to be nonpolar. Some applications of these solvents contain oil extraction, pharmaceuticals, etc.

  • Aromatic solvents– Aromatic solvents are nonpolar solvents that are used as industrial solvents for adhesives, etc.

  • Carbonyls solvents– Carbonyls solvents are solvents that include esters and are said to show polar properties and are used in electronic cleaners, nail paint removers, etc.


When a saturated carbon atom is bound to a hydroxyl (-OH) group, alcohol is formed. Phenol is formed when the -OH group replaces a hydrogen atom in a benzene molecule. When an oxygen atom is linked to two alkyl or aryl groups, ether is formed.

FAQs on Important Notes For Alcohols Phenols and Ethers

1. Which is More Acidic: Phenol or Ether? 

Phenol is more acidic than alcohol, and with sodium hydroxide solution, H+ can be extracted. Compared to carboxylic acids, it is less acidic. Hence, phenol is more acidic than ether. Phenols are compounds where the (⎯OH) group is directly connected to an aromatic ring/ benzene ring. These are represented as ArOH. Ethers, on the other hand, are the type of organic compounds that contains the functional group (⎯O⎯). Ethers have the general formula (R⎯O⎯R) (where the hydrocarbon classes (R) may be either identical or different).

2.Why isn't Phenol an Alcohol? 

Alcohol occurs when one saturated carbon atom is bonded to one hydroxyl while on the other hand Phenol occurs when one hydrogen atom in one benzene molecule is replaced by the -OH group. Aromatic alcohols are those in which the OH group is not connected to the benzene ring directly. Phenols are those in which OH is directly connected to the benzene ring. Thus phenols are neither alcohol nor aromatic alcohol. An-OH bonded to an unsaturated sp2 carbon consists of a phenol. Therefore,  phenol is not considered an alcohol.

3. Which Test Indicates That Phenol is Present? 

To assess the presence of phenols in a given sample or compound, the ferric chloride test is used (for instance natural phenols in a plant extract). Positive results are also given by enols, hydroxamic acids, oximes, and sulfinic acids. Ferric chloride solution is the neutral solution of ferric chloride which is prepared by adding a dilute solution of sodium hydroxide to this solution. This should be done drop by drop until a small but permanent brown precipitate occurs. Then filter the solution and operate the clear filtrate for the test.

4. What is Benzene?

Benzene is a naturally occurring organic compound with the chemical formula C6H6. Benzene is the parent compound of different aromatic compounds. Benzene is produced by volcanoes and is present in numerous plants and animals, but it is an important industrial chemical made from oil and coal. Benzene is a pure, clear, and colorless liquid. In industry, benzene is used to make other chemicals. For Example- Plastics, Gasoline. Benzene is a closed ring of 6 carbon atoms. They are linked by bonds that rotate between single and double bonds. All carbon atoms are bonded by a single hydrogen atom. Benzene has a melting temperature at 5.5 ° C and the boiling point at 80.1°C.

5. What are the properties of Benzene?

Benzene is a colorless liquid and has an observable odor of formula C6H6. It is a closed ring of 6 carbon atoms connected by bonds that alternate between single and double bonds. The different properties of benzene are-

  • Benzene is a colorless liquid and has an aromatic odor.

  • It is immiscible in water but soluble in organic solvents.

  • Benzene has a density of 0.87g cm-3. and is lighter than water.

  • It has an average boiling point and a high melting point.

  • Benzene shows the characteristics of resonance.

  • Benzene is highly inflammable. 

  • Benzene burns with a sooty flame.