# H3PO4 Lewis structure

H3PO4 (phosphoric acid) has three hydrogen atoms, one phosphorus atom, and four oxygen atoms.

In the H3PO4 Lewis structure, there is one double bond and three single bonds around the phosphorus atom, with four oxygen atoms attached to it. The oxygen atom with a double bond has two lone pairs, and the left oxygen, right oxygen, and the bottom oxygen atom (with which the hydrogen atom is attached) also has two lone pairs.

Contents

## Steps

To properly draw the H3PO4 Lewis structure, follow these steps:

#1 Draw a rough sketch of the structure
#2 Next, indicate lone pairs on the atoms
#3 Indicate formal charges on the atoms, if necessary
#4 Minimize formal charges by converting lone pairs of the atoms
#5 Repeat step 4 if necessary, until all charges are minimized

Let’s break down each step in more detail.

### #1 Draw a rough sketch of the structure

• First, determine the total number of valence electrons

In the periodic table, hydrogen lies in group 1, phosphorus lies in group 15, and oxygen lies in group 16.

Hence, hydrogen has one valence electron, phosphorus has five valence electrons, and oxygen has six valence electrons.

Since H3PO4 has three hydrogen atoms, one phosphorus atom, and four oxygen atoms, so…

Valence electrons of three hydrogen atoms = 1 × 3 = 3
Valence electrons of one phosphorus atom = 5 × 1 = 5
Valence electrons of four oxygen atoms = 6 × 4 = 24

And the total valence electrons = 3 + 5 + 24 = 32

• Second, find the total electron pairs

We have a total of 32 valence electrons. And when we divide this value by two, we get the value of total electron pairs.

Total electron pairs = total valence electrons ÷ 2

So the total electron pairs = 32 ÷ 2 = 16

• Third, determine the central atom

Here hydrogen can not be the central atom. Because the central atom is bonded with at least two other atoms, and hydrogen has only one electron in its last shell, so it can not make more than one bond.

Now we have to choose the central atom from phosphorus and oxygen. Place the least electronegative atom at the center.

Since phosphorus is less electronegative than oxygen, assume that the central atom is phosphorus.

Therefore, place phosphorus in the center and hydrogen and oxygen on either side.

• And finally, draw the rough sketch

### #2 Next, indicate lone pairs on the atoms

Here, we have a total of 16 electron pairs. And seven bonds are already marked. So we have to only mark the remaining nine electron pairs as lone pairs on the sketch.

Also remember that hydrogen is a period 1 element, so it can not keep more than 2 electrons in its last shell. Phosphorus is a period 3 element, so it can keep more than 8 electrons in its last shell. And oxygen is a period 2 element, so it can not keep more than 8 electrons in its last shell.

Always start to mark the lone pairs from outside atoms. Here, the outside atoms are hydrogens and oxygens. But no need to mark on hydrogen, because each hydrogen has already two electrons.

So for top oxygen, there are three lone pairs. For left oxygen, right oxygen, and bottom oxygen, there are two lone pairs, and for phosphorus, there is zero lone pair because all nine electron pairs are over.

Mark the lone pairs on the sketch as follows:

### #3 Indicate formal charges on the atoms, if necessary

Use the following formula to calculate the formal charges on atoms:

Formal charge = valence electrons – nonbonding electrons – ½ bonding electrons

For each hydrogen atom, formal charge = 1 – 0 – ½ (2) = 0

For phosphorus atom, formal charge = 5 – 0 – ½ (8) = +1

For top oxygen atom, formal charge = 6 – 6 – ½ (2) = -1

For left oxygen, right oxygen, and bottom oxygen atom, formal charge = 6 – 4 – ½ (4) = 0

Here, both phosphorus and oxygen atoms have charges, so mark them on the sketch as follows:

The above structure is not a stable Lewis structure because both phosphorus and oxygen atoms have charges. Therefore, reduce the charges (as below) by converting lone pairs to bonds.

### #4 Minimize formal charges by converting lone pairs of the atoms

Convert a lone pair of the top oxygen atom to make a new P — O bond with the phosphorus atom as follows:

In the above structure, you can see that the central atom (phosphorus) forms an octet. The outside atoms (oxygens) also form an octet, and all hydrogens form a duet. Hence, the octet rule and duet rule are satisfied.

Also, the above structure is more stable than the previous structures. Therefore, this structure is the stable Lewis structure of H3PO4.

Next: IF3 Lewis structure