Terthiophene dyes were synthesized having a carboxylate or a phosphonate moiety at the 2-position which serves as an anchoring group to zinc oxide nanocrystals (ZnO NCs). Electronic absorption and fluorescence measurements, combined with reduction potentials, provided estimates of -1.81 and -1.86 V vs. NHE for the excited state reduction potential of the carboxylate and phosphonate, respectively. Static quenching was observed when the dyes were bound to the surface of acetate-capped ZnO NCs having a diameter of 2.8 nm. Stern-Volmer studies conducted at several dye concentrations established that a minor fraction of the adsorbed dye remained unquenched even at 1:1 dye to NC ratios. Adsorption isotherm measurements established that the phosphonate binds more strongly than the carboxylate and that saturation coverage was ∼1.2 dyes per nm2 for both dyes. Ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopic experiments were used to probe excited state dynamics. In the presence of ZnO NCs, disappearance of the singlet excited state of the dye corresponded to appearance of the spectroscopic signature of the oxidized dye with a time constant of 1.5 ± 0.1 and 6.1 ± 0.2 ps, respectively, for the carboxylate and phosphonate dye. The difference in the electron transfer rates was attributed to a larger electronic coupling for the dye having the carboxylate anchoring group.