March 3, 2017 Miriam Rothman


What is “grounding” versus “grounded” versus “neutral”?


According to the terminology in the CEC and NEC, the “grounding” conductor is for the safety ground, i.e., the green or bare or green with a yellow stripe wire. The word “neutral” is reserved for the white when you have a circuit with more than one “hot” wire. Since the white wire is connected to neutral and the grounding conductor inside the panel, the proper term is “grounded conductor”. However, the potential confusion between “grounded conductor” and “grounding conductor” can lead to potentially lethal mistakes – you should never use the bare wire as a “grounded conductor” or white wire as the “grounding conductor”, even though they are connected together in the panel.


[But not in subpanels – subpanels are fed neutral and ground separately from the main panel. Usually.]


Note: do not tape, colour or substitute other colour wires for the safety grounding conductor. In the trade, and in common usage, the word “neutral” is used for “grounded conductor”. This FAQ uses “neutral” simply to avoid potential confusion. We recommend that you use “neutral” too. Thus the white wire is always (except in some light switch applications) neutral. Not ground.



Learn more about Fuse vs Breaker – What are the differences? here >>