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I am struggling on how to say when someone is an expert on a certain topic or skill. Because it is not exactly the meaning I intend to give.

What I really want to say is like: "When you want to know about IT, ask John. He is the __________ in this topic within our group".

Can I use the word "reference" to fill in the blank? is that usual?

Thanks everyone.

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    ...authority? – WS2 Apr 21 '16 at 17:35
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    or informally, the go-to person – bib Apr 21 '16 at 17:50
  • No, "reference" is not appropriate in that context. – TrevorD Apr 21 '16 at 23:24
  • I agree, reference would sound odd. In a workplace setting, I sometimes refer to experts as an expert, or lead. – jxh Apr 22 '16 at 21:56
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You cannot use "reference" to fill in the blank here.

"When you want to know about IT, ask John. He is the ___ in this topic within our group".

But you can "refer" to this person, who is an ___ in this topic.

A formal and most commonly used word would be:

ExpertODO

A person who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area

"an expert in health care"

synonyms: specialist, authority, pundit, guru, oracle; adept, maestro, virtuoso, master, past master, professional, genius, wizard; connoisseur, aficionado, one of the cognoscenti, cognoscente, doyen, savant

If you want something less formal:

Go-toM-W

always helpful : producing desired results or information when needed

relied on for expert knowledge or skill

"the company's go-to guy"
"He's the go-to guy in the office for tax information"

Even more informal, especially if it's the IT field:

NinjaODO

1.1 [OFTEN WITH MODIFIER] informal A person who excels in a particular skill or activity:

"My goal as marketing ninja is to get Thomas to spend less time in London, and more time on a plane, visiting his other ports of call."
"the courses vary—you don’t have to be a computer ninja to apply"

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You can try and use panjandrum

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