In reactions centered at phosphorus, whether chemical or biochemical, a pentacoordinate transition state species or an intermediate or a stable molecule is very often encountered. In this Account, recent developments in this important area are discussed and compared with the earlier literature. Particular reference, with results from our laboratory, will be made to the apicophilicity, fluxional behavior, bond parameters, and tetra- vs pentacoordination. It is shown that the familiar apicophilicity rules give an oversimplified picture as demonstrated by several exceptions. Extremities of the P-O or P-N bond distances in PX(4)N and PO(4)N systems as revealed by a database search and possible future directions in this area are also discussed.
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