Heating a mixture of ethanoic acid and ethanol produces a liquid called ethyl ethanoate. A few drops of concentrated sulfuric acid must be added for the reaction to work. The sulfuric acid acts as a catalyst.
ethanoic acid + ethanol ⇋ ethyl ethanoate + water
CH₃COOH (l) + CH₃CH₂OH (l) ⇋ CH₃COOCH₂CH₃ (l) + H₂O (l)
The ethyl ethanoate produced is an ester.
The reaction is called esterification.
The reaction can also be described as a condensation reaction because water is made when two molecules join together.
Notice that the reaction is reversible. Pure reactants are used to maximise the yield of ethyl ethanoate. Pure ethanoic acid is called glacial ethanoic acid.