Naming an acid from its formula requires us to recognize the basic structure of all acid formulas. Acids are similar to ionic compounds, in that they are made of postive and negative pieces. The difference is that the positive piece is always hydrogen ions (H+1).
The name of the acid, then, is based on the negative ion alone. The names of negative ions always end in either "ate," "ite," or "ide." The name of the acid is related to the ending on that negative ion according to the system below. You will need to know your polyatomic ions for this.
ATE ions make IC acids
For example, the acid HNO3 is a hydrogen attached to NO3, which is called nitrate. (We know that nitrate has a -1 charge, but that's "invisible" because it is cancelled by the H+1)
NitrATE makes nitrIC ACID. So HNO3 is nitric acid.
Another example: H2C2O4
ITE ions make OUS acids
The acid HNO2 is a hydrogen attached to NO2, which is called nitrite. (We know that nitrite has a -1 charge, but that's "invisible" because it is cancelled by the H+1)
NitrITE makes nitrOUS ACID. So HNO2 is nitrous acid.
Another example: HClO2
IDE ions make HYDRO___IC acids
The acid HCN is a hydrogen attached to CN , which is called cyanide. (We know that cyanide has a -1 charge, but that's "invisible" because it is cancelled by the H+1)
CyanIDE makes HYDROcyanIC ACID. So HCN is hydrocyanic acid.
Another example: H2Se
Remember that an element from the periodic table with a negative charge gets the "ide" ending, so Se-2 is selenide.
A note about acid names
Acids made from the ions sulfate, sulfite, sulfide, phosphate, phosphite and phosphide have a "quirk" in their name.
Sulfate (SO4-2) should make sulfic acid (following the system above), however we call it sulfuric acid (because it sounds better). The table below gives the correct names for each of these acids.
Try these on your own. The answers are here.