The reaction of mercury(II) halides with 1,2-bis(diphenylphosphino)ethane monoxide (dppeO) in 1:1 molar ratio yielded P,O-coordinated polymers having the empirical formula [HgX2(dppeO)]n [X = Cl (1), Br (2), I (3)]. In contrast, the reaction between the same reactants in a 1:2 molar ratio yielded the P, P-coordinated monomeric complexes, HgX2(dppeO)2[X = Cl (4), Br (5), I (6)]. The structures of 2, 3, 4 and 5 have been characterized crystallographically. The results indicate that the geometry around the mercury atom in each of these molecules is tetrahedral with considerable distortion. The 31P NMR spectra of the 1:1 complexes indicate the dissociation of the Hg-O bond in solution. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.