We investigated heat and mass transfer on water based nanofluid due to the combined effects of homogeneous–heterogeneous reactions, an external magnetic field and internal heat generation. The flow is generated by the movement of a linearly stretched surface, and the nanofluid contains nanoparticles of copper and gold. Exact solutions of the transformed model equations were obtained in terms of hypergeometric functions. To gain more insights regarding subtle impact of fluid and material parameters on the heat and mass transfer characteristics, and the fluid properties, the equations were further solved numerically using the matlab bvp4c solver. The similarities and differences in the behavior, including the heat and mass transfer characteristics, of the copper–water and gold–water nanofluids with respect to changes in the flow parameters were investigated. Finally, we obtained the numerical values of the skin friction and heat transfer coefficients.