Is ClF3 Polar or Nonpolar? (And Why?)

Is ClF3 Polar or Nonpolar

ClF3 is a POLAR molecule.

But why? 

And how can you say that ClF3 is a polar molecule?

Want to know the reason?
Let’s dive into it!

ClF3 is a POLAR molecule because the Fluorine (F) present in the molecule is more electronegative, which causes the partial positive (ẟ+) and partial negative (ẟ-) charge to appear on the molecule. These ẟ+ and ẟ- charges are responsible to make the entire ClF3 molecule polar.

Let me explain this in detail with the help of ClF3 lewis structure and its 3D geometry.

Why is ClF3 a Polar molecule? (Explained in 3 Steps)

ClF3 is a polar molecule because it has poles of partial positive charge (ẟ+) and partial negative charge (ẟ-) on it.

Let me explain this to you in 3 steps!

Step #1: Draw the lewis structure

Here is a skeleton of ClF3 lewis structure and it contains three Cl-F bonds.

Is ClF3 Polar or Nonpolar

(Note: If you want to know the steps of drawing the ClF3 lewis dot structure, then visit this article: ClF3 lewis structure, Or you can also watch this short 2 minute video).

So from the above diagram we have come to know that the ClF3 molecule has three Cl-F bonds.

Now in the next step we have to check whether these Cl-F bonds are polar or nonpolar.

And we also have to check the molecular geometry of ClF3.

Step #2: Check whether individual bonds are polar or nonpolar

The chemical bonds can be either nonpolar, polar or ionic depending on the difference of the electronegativity values (ΔEN) between the two atoms.

Have a look at the above image.

  • If the electronegativity difference (ΔEN) is less than 0.4, then the bond is nonpolar covalent bond.
  • If the electronegativity difference (ΔEN) is between 0.4 to 1.7, then the bond is polar covalent bond. 
  • If the electronegativity difference (ΔEN) is greater than 1.7, then the bond is an ionic bond. [1] [2] [3] [4]

Now let’s come to the ClF3 molecule. It has three Cl-F bonds.

You can see the electronegativity values of Chlorine (Cl) and Fluorine (F) atoms from the periodic table given below.

From the above image;

  • Electronegativity of Chlorine (Cl) = 3.16 [5]
  • Electronegativity of Fluorine (F) = 3.98 [6]

Now let’s see the polarity of each bond.

For Cl-F bond;
The electronegativity difference (ΔEN) = 3.98 – 3.16 = 0.82
This value lies between 0.4 to 1.7, which indicates that the bond between Chlorine (Cl) and Fluorine (F) is polar.
Hence, the Cl-F bond is a polar covalent bond.

Is ClF3 Polar or Nonpolar

You can see in the above image that because of higher electronegativity of Fluorine atom, the partial positive charge (ẟ+) appears on the Chlorine atom (Cl) and partial negative charge (ẟ-) appears on the Fluorine atoms (F).

But wait, we also have to look at the molecular geometry of ClF3 to know whether it has a symmetric shape or not.

Step #3: Check whether the molecule is symmetric or not

Have a look at this 3D structure of ClF3. The Chlorine atom (Cl) is at the center and it is surrounded by 3 Fluorine atoms (F).

It also has two lone pairs on the Chlorine atom (Cl).

Is ClF3 Polar or Nonpolar

Due to the lone pairs on the chlorine atom (Cl), its molecular geometry becomes asymmetric.

Because of this, there are positive and negative poles of charges on the overall molecule of ClF3.

Hence, the ClF3 molecule is a polar molecule.

I hope you have understood the reason behind the polar nature of ClF3 molecule.

See the polarity of other molecules to make your concepts clear:
Is HF Polar or Nonpolar?
Is PF5 Polar or Nonpolar?
Is Acetone Polar or Nonpolar?
Is BrF3 Polar or Nonpolar?
Is IF5 Polar or Nonpolar?


Jay is an educator and has helped more than 100,000 students in their studies by providing simple and easy explanations on different science-related topics. With a desire to make learning accessible for everyone, he founded Knords Learning, an online learning platform that provides students with easily understandable explanations.

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