Abstract The local surface structures of S Ni(111) in the ( √3 × √3) R30° and (5√3 × 2) phases have been investigated by means of polarization-dependent sulfur K-edge surface EXAFS. In the (√3 × √3 ) R30° phase, sulfur adatoms are found to occupy threefold hollow sites with a SNi distance of 2.13 Å and an inclination angle ω of the Sz.sbnd;Ni bonds at 44° from the surface plane. In contrast, in the (5√3 × 2) phase, it is determined that the Sz.sbnd;Ni bond is longer, 2.18 Å, more inclined, ω = 31°, and that the coordination number is not 3 but 4. These results strongly support a picture involving reconstruction of the top nickel layer to form a rectangular structure. Consideration of several models proposed for the (5√3 × 2) phase leads to one which is compatible with both the present results and results recently reported using STM.