Abstract An anthracene-based fluorescent boronic acid system developed by the Shinkai group has been widely used for the preparation of fluorescent sensors for carbohydrates. Such application is based on the significant fluorescence intensity increase of this system upon binding with a carbohydrate. The mechanism through which this fluorescence intensity change happens was originally proposed to go through a B–N bond formation mechanism, which masks the nitrogen lone pair electrons. However, our own fluorescence studies suggest a possible alternative mechanism for the fluorescence change upon the formation of a boronic acid ( 1a) complex with diols. In this new proposed mechanism, complex formation induces solvolysis, which results in the protonation of the amine nitrogen if the reactions are carried out in a protic solvent such as water. This protonation prevents the photoinduced electron transfer, resulting in reduced quenching of the anthracene fluorescence. Such a solvolysis mechanism is supported by evidence from various types of experiments and theoretical calculations.