The competitive adsorption between oxalate and malonate at the water-goethite interface was studied as a function of pH and total ligand concentrations by means of quantitative adsorption measurements and attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared (ATR-FTIR) spectroscopy. The results obtained show that ATR-FTIR spectroscopy resolves the individual spectroscopic features of oxalate and malonate when adsorbed simultaneously at the water-goethite interface. The characteristic peaks of all four types of predominating surface complexes existing in the single ligand systems were identified, namely one inner sphere and one outer sphere surface complex for each ligand. The quantitative adsorption data showed that oxalate partially out-competes malonate at the water-goethite interface. Evaluation of the peak area variations as a function of pH indicated that the stronger oxalate adsorption can be ascribed to the more stable inner sphere surface complex of oxalate, which in turn is related to the oxalate five-member chelate ring structure yielding a more stable complex compared to the six-member ring of malonate. (c) 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.