The distinction between bactericidal and bacteriostatic agents appears to be clear according to the in vitro definition, but this only applies under strict laboratory conditions and is inconsistent for a particular agent against all bacteria. The distinction is more arbitrary when agents are categorized in clinical situations. The supposed superiority of bactericidal agents over bacteriostatic agents is of little relevance when treating the vast majority of infections with gram-positive bacteria, particularly in patients with uncomplicated infections and noncompromised immune systems. Bacteriostatic agents (e.g., chloramphenicol, clindamycin, and linezolid) have been effectively used for treatment of endocarditis, meningitis, and osteomyelitis--indications that are often considered to require bactericidal activity. Although bacteriostatic/bactericidal data may provide valuable information on the potential action of antibacterial agents in vitro, it is necessary to combine this information with pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic data to provide more meaningful prediction of efficacy in vivo. The ultimate guide to treatment of any infection must be clinical outcome.