Abstract The u.v. and i.r. absorption spectra of phenol in a series of solvent systems have been studied and the changes in the spectra, particularly the loss of fine structure in the u.v. spectra, have been qualitatively interpreted in terms of hydrogen bonding effects. The systems studied were chosen to favour either self bonding of the phenol or bonding between the phenol and the minor component of the solvent system. In the latter case the solvent systems were such that the phenol could act either as a proton donor (with an aliphatic ether) or as a donor and acceptor (with ethanol).