Monolayer HNb3O8 2D nanosheets have been used as highly chemoselective and active photocatalysts for the selective oxidation of alcohols. The nanosheets exhibit improved photocatalytic activity over their layered counterparts. Results of in situ FTIR, DRS, ESR, and DFT calculations show the formation of surface complexes between the Lewis acid sites on HNb3O8 2D nanosheets and alcohols. These complexes play a key role in the photocatalytic activity of the material. Furthermore, the unique structural features of the nanosheets contributed to their high photocatalytic activity. An electron transition from the coordinated alcohol species to surface Nb atoms takes place and initiates the aerobic oxidation of alcohols with high product selectivity under visible light irradiation. This reaction process is distinct from that of classic semiconductor photocatalysis.