The role of various adsorbed forms of hydrogen and oxygen in hydrogenation and oxidation reactions respectively on palladium alloy and silver membrane catalysts is examined. The possibility of altering the ratio of the concentrations of hydrogen and oxygen on the working surface and in the layer near the surface of the catalyst after the introduction of these substances into the reaction zone, either by means of diffusion through the bulk of the metal or as part of a mixture with oxygen-containing one-carbon molecules, is demonstrated. When the above ratio is altered, there is a change in the selectivity and activity of the corresponding catalysts. The bibliography includes 26 references. © 1989 IOP Publishing Ltd.