To refer is to point in the direction of a particular thing, or a person mentions another person or a thing:

  • What is he referring to?
  • To what is he referring? (This avoids ending the question with a preposition.)
  • To whom is she referring?
  • Is she referring to me? (Is she talking about something that includes me?)
  • What does this word refer to?
  • The word "aquatic" refers to activities involving water.
  • A large sign outside of the building refers to the people who built it.
  • The students at the college refer to their history professor as "Dr. Schmidt." No one calls him by his first name. (Some professors go by the title of "professor.")
  • You shouldn’t refer to a doctor by his or her first name. (Medical doctors are rarely addressed by their first names inside a doctor’s office or hospital.)
  • Did you refer to the directions when putting the bike together?
  • The logo on a product refers to the manufacturer.

railroad crossing sign This sign refers drivers to the presence of a railroad crossing.

The word "refer" is often used when one person recommends another person for a job. This is called a reference. The word "refer" is also used when a person has a particular area of expertise:

  • The young woman was referred for the job because she had the necessary skills.
  • Everyone refers to Jim as an expert in this area.
  • I’m going to refer you to someone who has more experience with this.
  • A friend of mine referred me to you. (A friend of mine recommended you because of your expertise.)

The word "referral" is a noun. When someone makes a referral, he or she makes a recommendation. The word "referral" is commonly used in business:

  • Most of Bob’s new business comes from referrals. (Customers happy with his work recommend him to other people.)
  • Real estate agents get a lot of business through referrals.
  • Linda asks her clients to voluntarily fill out a referral form in order to generate new business.

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Date of publication: February 23, 2017