The self-assembly of cyano-substituted triarylamine derivatives on Au(111) is studied with scanning tunneling microscopy and density functional theory calculations. Two different phases, each stabilized by at least two different cyano bonding motifs are observed. In the fi rst phase, each molecule is involved in dipolar coupling and hydrogen bonding, while in the second phase, dipolar coupling, hydrogen bonding and metal-ligand interactions are present. Interestingly, the metal–ligand bond is already observed for deposition of the molecules with the sample kept at room temperature leaving the herringbone reconstruction unaffected. It is proposed that for establishing this bond, the Au atoms are slightly displaced out of the surface to bind to the cyano ligands. Despite the intact herringbone reconstruction, the Au substrate is found to considerably interact with the cyano ligands affecting the conformation and adsorption geometry, as well as leading to correlation effects on the molecular orientation.