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When you have two database tables with a foreign key constraint between them, PostGraphile will automatically add that relation to your GraphQL schema in both directions. Sometimes you want to add additional links between types, perhaps links that traverse multiple relationships (e.g. post -> topic -> forum), or links that perform polymorphism over relations. For this need, we have refs. Refs are uni-directional (they do not automatically create a reverse field) and may be plural or singular. Plural refs support both list and connection interfaces in GraphQL.


Refs follow relations defined via foreign key constraints (or @foreignKey smart tags), attempts to build relations via a @ref without having an underlying foreign key relation will be ignored, though you may see a warning in the console such as:

When processing ref for resource 'posts', could not find matching relation for

@ref and @refVia

The easiest way to define a ref is with a @ref smart tag. The first argument to your @ref smart tag is the name for your reference, and then it supports the following optional parameters:

  • to: - the name of the GraphQL type we're referencing (required if via: is not present)
  • from: - the name of the GraphQL type we're applying the reference to when using polymorphism
  • via:- the route string (see below) through which we can reach the target
  • singular - present if this is a singular relationship
  • plural - indicates that the ref is plural (default). Not allowed if singular is specified.

For example:

comment on table posts is $$
@ref author via:(author_id)->people(id) singular

Sometimes we want a ref to use multiple routes; this might be because there's multiple join tables we want to traverse to the same target table, or because we want to target multiple tables. When we need this, instead of specifying a via: directly on the @ref smart tag, we add multiple @refVia smart tags, each with the ref name followed by a via: (see "Route strings" below):

comment on table books is $$
@ref relatedPeople to:Person
@refVia relatedPeople via:book_authors;people
@refVia relatedPeople via:book_editors;people

We can also use multiple targets to indicate polymorphism (see the polymorphism docs for full details):

comment on table log_entries is $$
@ref author to:PersonOrOrganization singular
@refVia author via:(person_id)->people(person_id)
@refVia author via:(organization_id)->organizations(organization_id)

Route strings

The value for a via: parameter takes the form of a chain of one or more relationships separated by semicolons. Each relationship is either:

  • <table_name> - a table name (in which case there must be exactly one foreign key referencing this table), or
  • (<column>,...)-><table_name> - a list of local columns referencing a remote table's primary key
  • (<column>,...)-><table_name>(<column>,...) - a list of local columns referencing a remote table's list of columns