Abstract The electronic absorption and i.r. spectroscopic studies are reported for the hydrogen bonding systems involving alcohol and various ketones. It is shown that the hydrogen bonding abilities of ketones are determined by the extent of delocalization of the lone pair electrons in their non-bonding molecular orbitals. Evidence for the formation of very weak intermolecular hydrogen bonds between alcohol and the π-electron part of the dicarbonyls has also been presented from the i.r. studies in the 3400–3700 cm −1 region.