What is the difference between current and potential?

This is a weird comparison but role with me here. Imagine a lazy river with beach balls in it. The river essentially is the potential, also known as the voltage. It acts as sort of the pushing force to the beach balls which is the current. Current by definition is charge per second so how much charge is going through a conductor in a second. This means current is actual "stuff" unlike potential, or voltage, which is a push that makes the "stuff" move.

Answer


There is a misconception that 'potential' is the same as 'voltage'. This is incorrect. 'Voltage' is another name for 'potential difference', not 'potential'.

As an analogy, you can compare 'potential' with 'height', in which case 'voltage' (or 'potential difference') is equivalent to 'difference in height'. In the same way that 'height' is relative (i.e. it depends on its datum point, e.g. sea level), 'difference in height' is absolute. In the same way, the potential of an object depends on from where it is being measured (e.g. earth, or some other point), whereas voltage is absolute. So, regardless of the point of reference for the potentials of points A and B, the voltage between them will ALWAYS be the same.

So it is the voltage (potential difference) between two points, rather than potential at a point that 'drives' current.

If you equate voltage to a difference in height or a difference in pressure (according to your analogy), then current is the resulting flow.