Receptor-mediated phagocytosis normally represents an important first line of immune defence. Invading microbes are internalized into phagosomes and are typically killed by exposure to a battery of microbicidal agents. To some intracellular pathogens, however, receptor-mediated phagocytosis represents an opportunity to access a protected niche within the host cell. Another type of intracellular pathogen, including Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and Shigella flexneri, invade host cells in a more direct manner. These pathogens deliver effectors into the host cell via a type III secretion apparatus, initiating a ruffling response that leads to their uptake into intracellular vacuoles. Recent studies have demonstrated the importance of lipid signal transduction events in the uptake of pathogenic bacteria by both receptor-mediated phagocytosis and type III secretion-mediated invasion. In this review we highlight some of these discoveries, with a focus on phospholipid-dependent signalling events.