8.4a Acid Catalyzed Addition of an Alcohol

Chad's Organic Chemistry Videos

Course Menu

Chad's Ultimate Organic Chemistry Prep

Mastery Through Practice
chads videos sample quiz min
  • 60 Quizzes Arranged by Topic
  • 15 Chapter Tests
  • 3 Practice Final Exams
  • Over 800 Questions
  • Detailed Solutions
  • Summary of Organic Reactions
  • Ochem Study Guides
Less Substituted
More Substituted
Two Groups Added
Reagents Added H2SO4, ROH
Regioselectivity Markovnikov
Stereospecificity None
Other Characteristics Intermediate is a carbocation making rearrangements possible.

Acid-Catalyzed Addition of an Alcohol

Acid-catalyzed addition of an alcohol results in the Markovnikov addition of a hydrogen (less substituted side) and an alkoxy group (more substituted side) across an alkene forming an ether.  There is no stereospecificity associated with this reaction, but the intermediate is a carbocation so rearrangements are possible.  The reagents are any alcohol with a catalytic amount of strong acid, most commonly sulfuric acid (H2SO4).

Acid Catalyzed Addition of an Alcohol

Acid-Catalyzed Addition of an Alcohol Mechanism

Step 1: The pi electrons of the alkene attack a hydrogen of the protonated alcohol* resulting in carbocation formation.  The carbocation is a high energy intermediate making this the rate determining step (slow step) of the reaction.


*The protonated alcohol is the result of the strong acid protonating the alcohol as a strong acid will dissociate completely in an alcohol just as in water.  This step is typically not included as part of the overall mechanism and the protonated alcohol is just assumed to already be in solution.


Step 2: When there is no favorable rearrangement the alcohol carries out nucleophilic attack on the carbocation forming a protonated ether.


Step 3: An alcohol molecule deprotonates the intermediate yielding the product ether.

Acid Catalyzed Addition of an Alcohol Mechanism