We present a framework for physically motivated models of adsorbate–adsorbate interaction between small molecules on transition and coinage metals based on modifications to the substrate electronic structure due to adsorption. We use this framework to develop one model for transition and one for coinage metal surfaces. The models for transition metals are based on the d-band center position, and the models for coinage metals are based on partial charges. The models require no empirical parameters, only two first-principles calculations per adsorbate as input, and therefore scale linearly with the number of reaction intermediates. By theory to theory comparison with explicit density functional theory calculations over a wide range of adsorbates and surfaces, we show that the root-mean-squared error for differential adsorption energies is less than 0.2 eV for up to 1 ML coverage.