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Radicals are atoms, molecules, and ions that have one unpaired valence electron. Because of their unpaired electron, radicals are usually very reactive and do not last long in nature. You would know if it is a radical by looking at their valence electrons and how they differ from their stable state.
You can tell when a compound is a radical if it does not follow the octet rule. For instance, the methyl radical has 7 valence electrons instead of a full octet and is therefore very reactive and unstable. Thus, it will only exist for a short time.
Adding on to what people are saying above, it becomes easy to identify radicals when you look at the Lewis structure. Because radicals always have an unpaired electron, the Lewis diagram for a radical will always have an odd number of valence electrons.
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