Amide: Definition, Structure & Formation

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Reid

Danielle has taught middle school science and has a doctorate degree in Environmental Health

In chemistry, amides are compounds that contain nitrogen atoms. Learn more about the definition, structure, and formation of amides, review the amide functional group and the three types of amides, and how to make an amide in the lab using carboxylic acid as the starting compound. Updated: 10/15/2021

Amide Functional Group

Tylenol is very common; it might be sitting in your medicine cabinet right now. Commonly used to relieve pain or reduce a fever, Tylenol is a well-known over-the-counter medicine. But did you know that its chemical structure is classified as a synthetic amide? Before we identify the amide present in Tylenol's chemical structure, let's learn more about the amide functional group.

Functional groups are very useful in organic chemistry. They provide us with the ability to recognize or identify a specific group of atoms, or part of a larger compound. Functional groups range from alkanes to alcohols and even our friend in today's lesson, amide. An amide is a functional group that contains a nitrogen atom and carbonyl group. As we will see, they can be derived from a different functional group called a carboxylic acid.

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  • 0:00 Amide Functional Group
  • 0:55 Three Types of Amides
  • 1:56 Structure
  • 3:33 Making an Amide
  • 4:45 Lesson Summary
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Three Types of Amides

When you run into an amide, whether it's the structure or name, here are some points to keep in mind regarding nomenclature. Amides can be classified as three different types, according to naming: primary, secondary, or tertiary. Differences in these types depend on the location of the nitrogen atom attached to the carbon atom in a molecular chain. The naming of a primary amide requires you to drop the ending '-oic acid' or '-ic acid' and then add an '-amide.'

A secondary amide is named by adding an upper case N to let you know a nitrogen atom is attached to an alkyl group. An alkyl group is a type of hydrocarbon chain containing carbon and hydrogen atoms.

The naming of a tertiary amide (in case you see one of them) follows the same guidelines. Now, what in the world does a primary, secondary, and tertiary amide look like? Even better, what does an amide look like? Let's look at the structure of these amides.


The structure of an amide is fairly easy to remember. Just know that a nitrogen atom must be present in an amide compound.

First, is the carbonyl group, which is a carbon atom double bonded to an oxygen atom. Second, is the amine group (circled in green), which is a nitrogen atom single bonded to R groups. Think of R groups as placeholders for other molecules or atoms to attach in a structure. Lastly, there is an amide linkage formed between the carbon and nitrogen atom. This linkage, which is a single bond, is also characteristic of the amide functional group.

Diagram 1: Detailed Structure Of Amide

Here is an example of the structure of three types of amides. Can you spot the difference between each amide? The location of the nitrogen atom is not the same for a primary, secondary, and tertiary amide. A primary amide occurs when the nitrogen atom attaches to a single carbon atom, whereas a secondary amide occurs when the nitrogen atom attaches to two carbon atoms. If you were looking at a tertiary amide, where would the nitrogen atom attach? That's right -- it would attach itself to three carbon atoms.

Diagram 2: Molecular Structure Of A Primary, Secondary, And Tertiary Amide

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