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Sorry, I know this is a very basic question, but I've already searched a few universities' sites and through my books but none of them are giving me a direct answer.

If you specify the terminals that a circuit element is connected to( like V(bc)) but not the + and - signs, can the voltage of that element be interpreted anyway you want or do you assume that the positive end is the first terminal specified and the second terminal is the negative end. For example you are asked to find V(bc) is it assumed that the positive end is b and and the negative end is c or can you interpret it anyway you want?

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you are asked to find V(bc) is it assumed that the positive end is b and and the negative end is c

That's the usual convention.

If you deviate from that convention, or you refer to some other voltage like V1 or Vspiffy, you should explicitly draw a diagram showing the location (where in the circuit) and polarity of that voltage.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I thought so, the book I normally use goes through its entirety just specifying the element as V(n) and labels the positive and negative terminals with positive and negative signs so this convention was sort if new to me. \$\endgroup\$ – Lightyear Buzz Mar 1 '12 at 15:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ In many cases, all voltages are measured with respect to a ground terminal (or node) and so one can write V(n) as the voltage at terminal (or node) n. If this convention is followed, then V(bc) would be V(b)-V(c), that is, the voltage drop from b to c, with b corresponding to + and c to -. \$\endgroup\$ – Dilip Sarwate Mar 1 '12 at 20:46

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