Some of the books I have state that power comes from the negative terminal on the power supply.If that is the case, the circuit starts from the negative right?

Say I have a simple circuit with a 6v supply, an 1K resistor and an LED. If I wire the resistor to the positive source, then wire that to the anode of the LED and back to ground, the circuit works fine.

How can this be the case? Shouldn't the resistor be between the cathode and the negative source?


2 Answers 2


It is true that, in most conductors, the actual charge carriers are negatively charged electrons, which leave the negative terminal of the power source, pass through the circuit, and return to the positive terminal of the source.

However, early scientists studying electricity didn't know about electrons, so arbitrarily declared that current flowed from the positive terminal of the battery, through the circuit, reeturing to the negative terminal of the battery. Today, almost everyone uses this "conventional" (positive charge) current, and you will avoid confusion by using it also.

Circuits work equally well whether you wish to think of them using conventional (positive) or electron (negative) current.

For your LED and resistor circuit, it doesn't matter which component is connected to the positive terminal of the battery, as Kirchoff's Current Law says that the current is the same at all points in a series circuit. That is, the resistor will limit current through the LED, whether it is placed "before" or "after" the LED, regardless of which way you think the current is flowing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @JohnnyStarr it is important to remember that good practice states that the anode side of an LED should be toward + and the cathode side (K) toward the gnd (-). \$\endgroup\$
    – Jacksonkr
    Jan 23, 2015 at 17:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jacksonkr That's more than "good practice", that's kinda required for the circuit to work. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 5, 2016 at 0:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Makes sence ...I can across some tutorials that had examples where the resister was on each side...and I suspected it didn't matter. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 14, 2019 at 21:41

You don't need to think of the current or the power "starting" at one side or the other of the power supply. Current flows in complete circuits, it doesn't start or stop at any particular place along the loop.

In particular, when two parts are placed in series, that means the current through them is equal, and the voltage across the series combination is equal to the sum of the voltages across the two components. These are basic implications of Kirchoff's Current Law and Kirchoff's Voltage Law.

In your specfic case, it doesn't matter whether the resistor is placed on the cathode side or the anode side of the LED. It will limit the current through the LED to the same value either way.


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