What is the Difference Between Carbonyl and Ketone

The main difference between carbonyl and ketone is that carbonyl is a functional group consisting of a carbon atom bonded to an oxygen atom by a double bond, whereas ketone is a specific type of carbonyl compound where the carbonyl group is bonded to two carbon atoms.

Carbonyl compounds and ketones are integral components in organic chemistry, sharing a common structural feature—the carbonyl group. This functional group, composed of a carbon atom double-bonded to an oxygen atom, imparts distinct properties and reactivity to both types of compounds. While all ketones are carbonyl compounds, not all carbonyl compounds are ketones.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is a Carbonyl  
      – Definition, Features, Nomenclature
2. What is a Ketone
      – Definition, Features, Nomenclature
3. Relationship Between Carbonyl and Ketone
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Carbonyl and Ketone
      – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: Carbonyl and Ketone
      – Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

Carbonyl, Ketone

Difference Between Carbonyl and Ketone - Comparison Summary

What is a Carbonyl

Characterized by a carbon-oxygen double bond (C=O), the carbonyl group can be found in diverse chemical species, ranging from simple compounds like aldehydes and ketones to more complex structures such as carboxylic acids, esters, amides, and others. The carbon atom in the carbonyl group is typically sp2 hybridized, leading to a trigonal planar geometry around the carbon atom. The oxygen atom is usually sp3 hybridized. In aldehydes, the carbonyl group is at the terminal end of a carbon chain. Systematic naming involves identifying the longest carbon chain containing the carbonyl group and modifying the suffix of the alkane name to “-al.” For example, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. Ketones feature a carbonyl group within the carbon chain. The naming convention involves identifying the parent chain and appending the suffix “-one.” For instance, acetone and butanone.

Carbonyl vs Ketone

Figure 1: Carboxylic Acid

In carboxylic acids, the carbonyl group is part of a carboxyl functional group (–COOH). The systematic naming includes identifying the parent carbon chain and modifying the alkane name to end in “-oic acid.” Esters consist of a carbonyl group linked to an oxygen atom, which is further bonded to an alkyl or aryl group. Naming involves specifying the alkyl or aryl groups on either side of the oxygen, such as methyl acetate. In amides, the carbonyl group is linked to a nitrogen atom.

The nomenclature includes naming the alkyl or aryl group attached to the nitrogen, as well as specifying the parent carboxylic acid, such as N,N-dimethylformamide. Carbonyl compounds are useful in synthetic chemistry for the preparation of various pharmaceuticals, polymers, and fine chemicals. Some carbonyl compounds, such as acetone, find applications as solvents in various industries. Carbonyl-containing resins are used in the production of adhesives and coatings. Many natural and synthetic flavors and fragrances contain carbonyl groups.

What is a Ketone

The defining feature of a ketone is the carbonyl group, where a carbon atom is double-bonded to an oxygen atom. In ketones, this carbonyl group is positioned between two carbon atoms, denoted as R₂C=O. The carbon atom in the carbonyl group is typically sp2 hybridized, resulting in a trigonal planar geometry around the carbon atom. The oxygen atom is generally sp3 hybridized. The systematic naming of ketones involves identifying the parent carbon chain and appending the suffix “-one” to indicate the presence of the carbonyl group.

The carbon-oxygen double bond in the carbonyl group makes the carbon atom electrophilic, rendering ketones susceptible to nucleophilic attack. This property is fundamental to various reactions, including the formation of imines and enamines. Ketones can be reduced to form secondary alcohols through the use of reducing agents such as sodium borohydride or lithium aluminum hydride. While ketones themselves are relatively resistant to oxidation, they can undergo further oxidization to carboxylic acids under specific conditions.

Compare Carbonyl and Ketone

Figure 2: Ketone

Ketones are valuable intermediates in organic synthesis, serving as key building blocks for the construction of more complex molecules. Moreover, ketones can undergo various transformations, such as reduction to alcohols, oxidation to carboxylic acids, and condensation reactions to form larger molecules. Ketones participate in cross-coupling reactions, enabling the formation of carbon-carbon bonds. Suzuki-Miyaura and Grignard reactions are examples of such processes.

Relationship Between Carbonyl and Ketone

  • Both contain the C=O group in them.
  • Ketones are a type of carbonyl compound.
  • All ketones are carbonyl compounds, but not all carbonyl compounds are ketones.

Difference Between Carbonyl and Ketone


The term “carbonyl” is a broader classification encompassing various functional groups containing a carbon-oxygen double bond (C=O). On the other hand, a “ketone” is a specific type of carbonyl compound, characterized by the presence of the carbonyl group in the middle of the carbon chain, with the formula RC(=O)R’.


The nomenclature of carbonyl compounds depends on the specific functional group present, such as aldehyde, ketone, carboxylic acid, etc. Ketones are specifically named by indicating the alkyl or aryl groups attached to the carbonyl carbon.

FAQ: Carbonyl and Ketone

What are the examples of carbonyl group-containing compounds?

Aldehydes like formaldehyde (HCHO) and acetaldehyde (CH₃CHO), as well as carboxylic acids like formic acid (HCOOH), are examples of carbonyl groups.

What are the examples of ketones?

Acetone (CH₃COCH₃), acetophenone (C₆H₅COCH₃), and butanone (CH₃COCH₂CH₃) are examples of ketones.

Is ketone an organic compound?

Yes, ketones are organic compounds.


1. “Carbonyl Compounds.” Byju’s.
2. “Ketone.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 

Image Courtesy:

1. “Carboxylic acid” By De.Nobelium – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Ketone-general” By Nothingserious – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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