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Difference between SN1 and SN2

Difference between SN1 and SN2

There are two main types of mechanisms for nucleophilic substitution reactions- SN1 and SN2. In this article, we will discuss the difference between these two mechanisms, and give some examples to illustrate. In general, SN1 reactions proceed more rapidly than SN2 reactions, but they are also less selective. Conversely, SN2 reactions are more selective but proceed more slowly. Let’s take a closer look at each of these mechanisms!

What is SN1?

SN1 is a type of nucleophilic substitution reaction that occurs in organic compounds. In this reaction, a nucleophile (a molecule that donates electrons) attacks the carbon atom of a bond, breaking the bond and forming a new one. The carbon atom must be bonded to a hydrogen atom in order for SN1 to occur. SN1 reactions are typically slower than SN2 reactions, and they often do not go to completion. This is because SN1 reactions can occur in two steps: first, the bond between the carbon and hydrogen atoms is broken; then, the nucleophile attacks the carbon atom. SN1 reactions are favored by certain conditions, such as high temperature, low concentration of reactants, and the presence of an inert solvent.

What is SN2?

SN2 is a type of nucleophilic substitution reaction. In SN2 reactions, a nucleophile attacks the carbon atom of a substrate molecule, causing the bonded atom to be displaced. SN2 reactions are typically reversible, meaning that the products of the reaction can be converted back into reactants. SN2 reactions occur in a variety of situations, including the synthesis of pharmaceuticals and the production of food additives. SN2 reactions are often used in industrial settings because they are relatively simple and straightforward. However, SN2 reactions can also be used in laboratory settings to create new compounds or to study the mechanisms of existing reactions.

Difference between SN1 and SN2

  • SN1 and SN2 are two different types of organic reactions. SN1 reactions involve the formation of a carbocation intermediate, while SN2 reactions do not. SN1 reactions are slower than SN2 reactions, but they can occur under a wider range of conditions. SN2 reactions are limited to molecules with nucleophilic groups attached to the carbon atom being attacked.
  • SN1 reactions, on the other hand, can take place even if the carbon atom being attacked is not bonded to a nucleophilic group. As a result, SN1 reactions are more versatile than SN2 reactions. However, SN2 reactions are usually preferable because they are faster and more efficient.
  • SN1 and SN2 react differently because of the mechanism by which they proceed. The difference in mechanism leads to different rates and products for the two types of reaction.
  • SN1 proceeds via a linear attack by the nucleophile while SN2 is a concerted reaction where the nucleophile attacks from the backside which is perpendicular to the leaving group leaving room for the new nucleophile. The linearity of SN1 results in a slower rate while SN2 is much faster because it is concerted.


In short, SN1 is a unimolecular process that takes place in the presence of a solvent. SN2 is a bimolecular process that takes place in the absence of a solvent. We hope this article has helped to clear up any confusion between these two processes.

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