Because of their key role in cell signalling, a rigorous regulation of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) is essential in eukaryotic physiology. Whereas the use of binding motifs and scaffold proteins guarantees the selective activation of a specific MAPK pathway, activating kinases and downregulating phosphatases control the appropriate intensity and timing of MAPK activation. Tyrosine, serine/threonine and dual-specificity phosphatases co-ordinately dephosphorylate and thereby inactivate MAPKs. In budding yeast, enzymes that belong to these three types of phosphatases have been shown to counteract the MAPKs that govern the cellular response to varied extracellular stimuli. Studies carried out with these yeast phosphatases have expanded our knowledge of essential key aspects of the biology of these negative regulators, such as their function, the mechanisms that operate in their modulation by MAPK pathways and their binding to MAPK substrates. Furthermore, yeast MAPK phosphatases have been shown to play additional and essential roles in MAPK-mediated signalling, controlling MAPK localization or cross-talk among pathways. This review stresses the importance of these negative regulators in eukaryotic signalling by discussing the recent developments and perspectives in the study of yeast MAPK phosphatases.