Chemguide: Support for CIE A level Chemistry

Learning outcome 19: Nitrogen compounds

19.2: Nitriles and hydroxynitriles

Statement 19.2.3

This statement is about the hydrolysis of a nitrile under both alkaline and acidic conditions.

You will find this in the second half of the page about making carboxylic acids. You will need some experimental details.

This is a commonly asked question by CIE, following on from the formation of a nitrile either from the reaction between a halogenoalkane and cyanide ions, or the reaction between a carbonyl compound and HCN. You can't afford not to know this!

CIE normally ask about acid hydrolysis, and seem to prefer hydrolysing it with dilute sulfuric acid rather than hydrochloric acid. It really doesn't matter. If you use the ionic equation, it just shows hydrogen ions anyway.

The alkaline hydrolysis wasn't specifically mentioned in syllabuses before 2022, but it is now mentioned in two places (here and under carboxylic acid chemistry). The fact that you may not easily find questions about it in pre-2022 papers doesn't mean that it isn't likely to come up now.

You may well already have done this as a part of statement 18.1.1(b). If you left this until now, go back and complete that section.

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© Jim Clark 2020