Carbon, a chemicalelement with the symbol C and atomic number 6, is a non-metallic element withdifferent appearance means graphite has a black, metallic appearance while diamondhas a clear appearance. Carbon has three naturally occurring isotopes: 12C &13C (stable), and 14C (radioactive).

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Carbon is thefourth most abundant element in the universe after hydrogen, helium, andoxygen. Mostly it is found in the form of organic compounds, and with combinewith air in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2). The carbon atoms can bond togetherin diverse forms which result in the formation of different allotropes. Graphite, diamond,and buckminsterfullerene are the best-known allotropes of carbon.

You are here toknow valence electrons of carbon atom, aren’t you? Don’t worry along with carbonvalence electrons we will explain its valency also. But before that let’s havesome basic ideas about what these two terms are:

Difference BetweenValence Electrons and Valency

Valence electronsare the total number of electrons present in the outermost shell of an atom(i.e. in outermost orbital). The valence electrons for a neutral atom is alwaysdefinite, it cannot be varied (more or less) in any condition for a particularatom and may or may not be equal to its valency.


Valency is definedas the total number of electrons an atom can lose, gain, or share at the timeof bond formation to get a stable electronic configuration i.e. to complete anoctet. The valency of an atom can be variable in different compounds or chemicalreactions due to the different bonding circumstances. Most of the time valencyvaries/changes due to change in oxidation and reduction states.

Carbon (C) ValenceElectrons

There are foursimple steps to find out the valence electrons for carbon atom which are:

Step 1: Find theAtomic Number


To find out theatomic number of carbon, we can use the periodic table. With the help of theperiodic table, we can easily see that the atomic number of carbon is 6. As itsatomic number is 6, it has six protons, and for neutral carbon, the number ofprotons are always equal to the number of electrons i.e. has six electrons inits nucleus.

Step 2: WriteElectron Configuration


Electronconfiguration is the arrangement of electrons on the orbitals. The carbon atomhas a total of five electrons so, we have to put 6 electrons in orbitals. The electronswill be placed in different orbitals according to the energy level: <1s, 2s,2p, 3s, 3p, 4s, 3d, 4p, 5s, 4d, 5p, 6s, 4f, 5d, 6p, 7s, 5f>. Now,

Carbon electronconfiguration C (6) =1s22s22p2(completeconfiguration).

= 2s22p2(condensed configuration).

Step3: DetermineValence Shell

As we know, thevalence shell of an atom can be found from the highest number of principlequantum numbers which are expressed in the term of n, and in 2s22p2, thehighest value of n is 2 so that the valence shell of B is2s22p2.

Step 4: FindValence Electrons

The total number ofelectrons present in the valence shell of an atom are called valence electrons,and there are a total of four electrons present in the valence shell of carbon(2s22p2). Thus,carbon has four valence electrons.

Valency of Carbon (C)

There are manydifferent ways to find out the valency of an atom which reflects the ability ofan atom to bond with other atoms. Valence describes how easily an atom or afree radical can combine with other chemical species. The valency of an atom isdetermined based on the number of electrons lost, gained, or shared withanother atom at the time of bond formation.

An atom is said tobe stable when its outermost shells have eight electrons (except H & He).If the total number of electrons in outermost shells is between one to four,the atom has positive valency and if electrons are between four to eight, thevalency is calculated by subtracting from eight and valency will be zero. Atomshaving four outermost electrons possess both positive and negative valency, andatoms having eight outermost electrons, valency will be zero (i.e. noblegases).

Elements like carboncan reach the stable state (nearest inert gas configuration) either by losing 4outermost electrons or by getting 4 electrons.So that the valency of carbonis 4 (tetravalency).

Note: Carbon hasboth +4 & -4 valency/oxidation states. If it loses three electrons to reach a stablestate (i.e. He), its valency will be +4. But if it gains five electrons toreach a stable state (i.e. Ne), its valency will be -4 as explained above. For example in CO2, the oxidation state of carbon is +4 while in CH4, the oxidation state is -4.

In another sense, acarbon atom can form four covalent bonds in chemical bonding (For example CH4,CCl4, etc.), and that what valency is, the maximum ability to form bonds withdifferent atoms at the time of chemical reactions.

We can also find the valency of carbon with thehelp of the periodic table. As carbon belongs to group 14 (IVa) along withsilicon (Si), germanium (Ge), tin (Sn), lead (Pb), and flerovium (Fl). All theseelements have a valency state of four (tetravalent).

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Clarification: Valency is the combining capacity of an element at the time of chemical bonding. so that valency cannot be negative or positive, it is just a number value between 0 to 4.