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    why is the anion formed in this reaction the conjugate base of the reactant acid? what would the reactant acid be in a e1cb reaction as it undergoes base extraction of a proton?
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    Its quite rare, you need groups which make the beta-proton very acidic(so plenty of electron withdrawing groups) and stabilise the anion. It's also encouraged by poor leaving groups(so more e1cb than E2) and very strong base.
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    To answer your question: You know what a conjugate base is right...?

    HA -----> A^- + H^+

    A is the conjugate base of HA.

    An example of A would be ethane with plenty of flourine and chlorine substituents. Both are highly electronegative and would :. increase proton acidity, and both are poor leaving groups. Add in a strong base and you're likely to get a high proportion of e1cb. Sykes Mechanisms book has good material on this.
 
 
 
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