Cerium dioxide (CeO2; ceria) nanoparticles (CeNPs) are promising nanozymes that show a variety of biological activity. Effective nanozymes need to retain their activity in the face of surface speciation in biological environments, and characterizing surface speciation is therefore critical to understanding and controlling the therapeutic capabilities of CeNPs. In particular, adsorbed phosphates can impact the enzymatic activity exploited to convert phosphate prodrugs into therapeutics in vivo and also define the early stages of the phosphate-scavenging processes that lead to the transformation of active CeO2 into inactive CePO4. In this work, we utilize ab initio lattice-dynamics calculations to study the interaction of phosphates with the three major surfaces of ceria and to predict the infrared (IR) and Raman spectral signatures of adsorbed phosphate species. We find that phosphates adsorb strongly to CeO2 surfaces in a range of stable binding configurations, of which 5-fold coordinated P species in a trigonal bipyramidal coordination may represent a stable intermediate in the early stages of phosphate scavenging. We find that the phosphate species show characteristic spectral fingerprints between 500 and 1500 cm–1, whereas the bare CeO2 surfaces show no active modes above 600 cm–1, and the 5-fold coordinated P species in particular show potential diagnostic P–O stretching modes between 650 and 700 cm–1 in both IR and Raman spectra. This comprehensive exploration of different binding modes for phosphates on CeO2 and the set of reference spectra provides an important step toward the experimental characterization of phosphate speciation and, ultimately, control of its impact on the performance of ceria nanozymes.