Although we normally think of an atom as having 1 s orbital and 3 p orbitals, atoms often hybridize. Hybridization definition: an atom changing its orbitals into a more stable, lower energy form. This article will cover how to figure out hybridization and the hybridization definition.

Knowledge of s and p orbitals are important for how to figure out hybridization of an atom and hybridization definition.

How to Figure Out Hybridization:

  1. Count number of “domains”
    1. Single bonds count as 1
    2. Double bonds count as 1
    3. Triple bonds count as 1
    4. Lone pairs of electrons count as 1
  2. Find hybridization on chart below:
Number of Domains Hybridization Other Orbitals Geometry
2 sp 2 p Linear (180˚)
3 sp2 1 p Trigonal planar (120˚)
4 sp3 None Tetrahedral (108.5˚)

Note that an atom always has 4 orbitals regardless of its hybridization. For example, an sp2-hybridized atom will have 3 sp2-hybridized orbitals and 1 p orbital, which sums to 4 total orbitals. Even non-hybridized atoms will follow this rule as they contain 1 s orbital and 3 p orbitals (4 orbitals total).


Keep it Simple

As a general rule, sp-hybridized orbitals occur on atoms with a triple bonded atoms, sp2-hybridized orbitals occur on double bonded atoms, and sp3-hybridized orbitals occur on single bonded atoms. It can get trickier when lone pairs are involved, but this can be used as a general guide.