The outlet's potential is 230 V, the earth's potential is 0 V. The person touching the outlet will get shocked, but why? What is the path that completes this circuit so current will flow?

  • \$\begingroup\$ At the power pole or power box a neutral has been grounded. Contacting the "Hot" wire and a ground could complete a circuit. The resulting current flow (if small) is interpreted as a shock. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 22, 2015 at 21:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's AC so doesn't body capacitance to earth provide this path for electrocution? \$\endgroup\$
    – Andy aka
    Apr 22, 2015 at 21:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you update your profile please? At least your education and background. \$\endgroup\$
    – GR Tech
    Apr 22, 2015 at 21:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Andyaka, Body capacitance to ground is ~200 pF (depending on lots of stuff) body resistance is ~10k ohm (1k - 100k) \$\endgroup\$ Apr 23, 2015 at 0:02

1 Answer 1


The neutral side of the 230 V line is connected to earth ground. Just touching the 230 V hot wire by itself won't hurt you, but if you are also touching ground or anything that is grounded, then there is a closed path from the 230 V thru you to ground thru the transformer and back to the 230 hot wire.

Not touching ground is a lot harder than you may think, since there are various things around you that you take for granted but could be connected to ground. For example, the chassis of your computer, the kitched faucet, the concrete floor in the basement, and even the screw holding the plastic plate over the outlet. Since many people aren't going to understand all the limitations, and it's easy to screw up and touch ground even when you do, it's better to just say that the 230 V line is not safe to touch. Most of the time under most conditions it's not, and the consequences of getting it wrong can be serious.


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