A comparative study on the crystal phases and their respective luminescence behaviour of Gd3+ based host materials such as GdPO4, GdF3, GdVO4 and Gd2O3 sensitized with 7at.% Ce3+ and activated with 5 at.% Tb3+ have been reported. The nanomaterials were prepared by polyol method using ethylene glycol as solvent and found to have different crystal structures such as monoclinic, orthorhombic, tetragonal and cubic phase. Clear characteristics emission from Tb3+ has been observed in all the samples when excited in the absorption wavelength of Ce3+ and Gd3+ (∼280 nm). Among all the above materials, intense emission of Tb3+ is found in GdPO4 followed by GdF3, Gd2O3 and GdVO4 respectively. The Tb3+ emission is strongly influenced by the energy transfer process and crystal structure of the host materials and hence this study will be important for choosing suitable materials for display devices and biomedical applications. © 2018 Author(s).