How do you recognize that something is a binary covalent compound (versus an ionic compound)? The reaction between metals and nonmetals typically produces ionic compounds, because the metal readily donates electrons to nonmetals. So ionic compounds usually contain metals. When nonmetals combine, however, there is no complete transfer of electrons from one atom to another. Instead, they share electrons and form a covalent bond. If a compound contains only nonmetals (no metals), then you can be reasonably sure that it is a covalent compound. Some exceptions would be compounds that contain polyatomic ions, such as NH4Br or (NH4)2SO4, which are ionic compounds even though they contain only nonmetals.
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