Three 6-phosphoryl picolinic acid (6PPA) derivatives were synthesized and used as europium and terbium sensitizers. Two of the three ligands (6-diethoxyphosphoryl picolinic acid (Hdeppa) and 6-monoethoxyphosphoryl picofinic acid (H(2)meppa)) are water-soluble, once complexed to lanthanide ions, while the third (6-dihydroxyphosphoryl picolinic acid (H(3)dhppa)) forms a precipitate. The stability constants of the phosphoryl-based complexes were found to be higher than the carboxylate analogue (dipicolinic acid, H(2)dpa). The main species are the [LnL(3)] complexes under strict stoichiometric conditions, confirmed by P-31 NMR spectroscopy, mass spectrometry and lifetime analyses. The photophysical measurements reveal that the emission intensity of [Eu(deppa)(3)] is maximal at pH 4.8, whereas for [Eu(meppa)(3)](3-), the optimum pH is observed at 9.0. The lifetimes are all in the millisecond range and have confirmed the absence of water molecules in the first coordination sphere. The emissions of the terbium are always brighter than the corresponding europium within this phosphoryl series. The quantum yields of the phosphoryl containing complexes are lower than the carboxylate analogue ([Ln(dpa)(3)](3-)), except for [Tb(deppa)(3)], which exhibits an interesting quantum yield of 40% in aqueous solution.