Dendritic cells (DC) are considered nature's adjuvants. They are potent stimulators of naive T cells and key inducers of primary immune responses. In recent times it has become clear that they can also play a central role in the development of T cell tolerance. Further complicating our understanding of DC function is the realization that DC can no longer be viewed as a homogeneous cell type. Rather, they exist as a complex mixture of strikingly different cell populations. The mechanisms that drive the conflicting immunological outcomes of tolerance and immunity have been the subject of intense scrutiny in recent years, most recently in terms of how the various DC subsets are involved in these events. Here we review recent experiments that provide insights into how DC subsets control the outcome of T cell activation and in so doing select between immunity and tolerance induction.