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The reason why ionic compounds are hard and brittle is because the ions in the compound are already held rigidly in place in a lattice due to the strong electrostatic forces of attraction in between the cations and the anions as well as the repulsion in the ions with like charges . However, if a large enough force is applied along a certain plane, this causes the ions to shift along that layer, displacing that layer with respect to the next, and there will hence be a repulsion between like charges within the ionic compound. This repulsion will shatter the crystal lattice of the ionic compound..
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