The effects of defect states on the fluorescence (FL) and electrochemiluminescence (ECL) properties of graphite phase carbon nitride (g-CN) are systematically investigated for the first time. The g-CN nanosheets (CNNSs) obtained at different condensation temperatures are used as the study models. It can be found that all the CNNSs have two kinds of defect states, one is originated from the edge of CNNSs (labeled as CN-defect) and the other is attributed to the partially carbonization regions (labeled as C-defect). Both two kinds of defect states substantially affect the luminescent properties of CNNSs. Both the FL and ECL signals of CNNSs contain a band gap emission and two defect emissions. For the FL of CNNSs, decreasing the density of defect states can increase efficiently the FL quantum yield, while increasing the density of defect states can make the FL spectra red shift. For the ECL of CNNSs, increasing the density of CN-defect states and decreasing the density of C-defect states are greatly important to improve the ECL activity. This work provides a deep insight into the FL and ECL mechanisms of g-CN, and is of significance in tuning the FL and ECL properties of g-CN. Also, it will greatly promote the applications of CNNSs based on the FL and ECL properties. © 2021 Wiley-VCH GmbH.