The foregoing is the most useful everyday definition of acids and
bases, applicable to aqueous solution. The Bronsted-Lowry theory
goes one step further, and frees us from a dependence on water as
a solvent. It also is helpful in explaining the difference between
strong and weak acids.
According to Bronsted and Lowry, an acid is any substance that
releases protons in solution, and a base is any substance that combines
with protons and removes them from solution.
Thus in the dissociation of HCl, HCl = H+ + Cl-,
the molecule of HCl is a B-L (Bronsted-Lowry) acid because it can
release a proton, and the Cl- ion is a B-L base because
it can combine with a proton. HCl and Cl- are called
a conjugate acid-base pair (see diagram on previous page). In the
two-proton dissociation of sulfuric acid,
the bisulfate ion, HSO4-, is the conjugate
base of the B-L acid H2SO4, and at the same
time is the conjugate acid of the B-L base SO2-. The
words "acid" and "base" in the Bronsted-Lowry
theory do not describe what a molecule is, but rather what it does.