A broad absorption band around 500 nm is observed in ZnS nanoparticles. The absorption becomes more intensive and shifts to the blue as the particle size is decreased. The absorption energy is lower than the band gap of the particles and is considered to be caused by the surface states. This assignment is supported by the results of the fluorescence and of the thermoluminescence of the surface states. Both the absorption and the fluorescence reveal that the surface states are size dependent. The glow peak of the semiconductor particles is not varied as much upon decreasing size, indicating the trap depth of the surface states is not sensitive to the particle size. Considering these results, a new model on the size dependence of the surface states is proposed, which may explain our observations reasonably. (C) 1997 American Institute of Physics.