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Ist "beziehen Sie sich" a good translation for "refer to", when it is used to formally suggest to someone (not order) to have a look at some source of information?

Example:

Bitte beziehen Sie sich auf den Fahrplan, welcher die Abfahrtszeiten aufführt.

as a translation for

Please refer to the time table, which contains the departure times.

This was an AI-suggested translation for a similar sentence, but suddenly I am not so sure about the use of "beziehen" in this construct. I am more familiar with the usage of "Ich beziehe mich auf ..." / "I am referring to ..." when the person uses the source of information to back up something he is saying.

If this is wrong, would you please suggest a better construct?

3 Answers 3

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No it isn't. At least not generally.

In English, to refer to sth can both mean to consult sth (although I rarely see that and am not even sure if that would be entirely correct - I would really think to consult would be a better fit) and to make a statement based on/backed by something else/someone else's statement.

In German, only the latter meaning works with "sich beziehen auf". So, if you don't make a statement (and simply have a look at the time table), "sich beziehen auf" doesn't work.

So

Ich beziehe mich auf Ihr Schreiben vom xx.xx. und bewerbe mich auf die angebotene Stelle

works nicely, because you are making a statement (by writing this letter) that refers to another statement (the received letter).

Als ich Ihnen die Abfahrtszeit des Zuges nannte, bezog ich mich auf den Winterfahrplan - Leider gilt aber der Sommerfahrplan

works nicely. There was a former statement (the time table) that I was referring to when making my own statement (the wrong departure time), but

Ich wollte wissen, wann der Zug abfährt und bezog mich deshalb auf den Fahrplan

wouldn't work - There's only one statement here - the time table, and I didn't talk to someone else about it. For this, something like konsultieren, heranziehen, zu Rate ziehen, even benutzen or simply hineinschauen works a lot better.

So

Bitte beziehen Sie sich auf den Fahrplan, welcher die Abfahrtszeiten aufführt.

doesn't really work generally (only one statement, the time table), but

Bitte beziehen Sie sich auf den Fahrplan, welcher die Abfahrtszeiten aufführt, wenn Sie Reisenden Auskunft geben.

works nicely again - There's a statement derived from the first thing I'm referring to, the Information given to travellers.

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Doesn't work because of the two meanings of refer in english. In this case, it's about using, not referencing, so "Bitte nutzen Sie den Fahrplan, um ..." Or "Bitte entnehmen Sie Ihre Abfahrtszeiten dem Fahrplan." is more precise.

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Your German sentence is grammatically correct and has the same meaning as the English one. However, it sounds very stiff and formal to me. I think the 'bitte beziehen Sie sich auf' construction is mostly used something like the instruction for writing an essay or something like that.

The message of your sentence is simply to look athe time table to find the departure times. That could also be conveyed by simpler constructions like:

Bitte beziehen Sie sich auf den Fahrplan mit den Abfahrtszeiten.

or

Die Abfahrtszeiten sind im Fahrplan vermerkt.

Neither of these have the exact same meaning as your English original but sounds more natural to me.

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