Abstract The adsorption of acetylene on W(100) at room temperature has been studied by AES, ELS, thermal desorption, mass spectrometry, work function and LEED in one vacuum chamber. AES line profile analysis shows that there are at least two adsorption processes occurring at room temperature. Further, it is possible to explain all the AES results by assuming non-sequential adsorption into just two states, denoted by α and β. This picture was substantiated and embellished by comparison with other standard surface techniques. The α-state comprises either a C 2H 2 unit with an activation energy for desorption of 2.3 eV molecule (53 kcal mole −1) or CH units bounded through the carbon of the β-state. Saturation coverage for the α-state is 3 × 10 14 molecules cm −2. The β-state is dissociative at low acetylene exposures and comparison between a carbon covered surface and the β-state suggest the latter to be dissociative up to saturation. There also appears to be ca. 10 14 hydrogen atoms cm −2 on W(100) on room temperature acetylene saturation, the carbon content of the β-state being 9 × 10 14 atoms cm −2. The residual C⋯C bond from the molecule in the β-state remains unknown. No sign of ordering in the adsorbed species was detected, save the possibility of (1 × 1) in the β-state. Acetylene adsorption at 580 K showed hydrogen from the β-state to block acetylene adsorption by 15% at saturation. A two-site adsorption model for the β-state is proposed to explain the results. The α-state is bonded through the carbon of the β-state and it is speculated that the former adsorbs onto “β” domains where there is a critical minimum size for the latter.