The last 4 years have seen significant advances in our understanding of the cellular processes that underlie the infection of plants by a range of biotrophic and necrotrophic oomycete pathogens. Given that oomycete and fungal pathogens must overcome the same sets of physical and chemical barriers presented by plants, it is not surprising that many aspects of oomycete infection strategies are similar to those of fungal pathogens. A major difference, however, centres on the role of motile oomycete zoospores in actively moving the pathogen to favourable infection sites. Recent studies have shown that the plant defence response to invading oomycetes is similar to that mounted against fungi, but biochemical differences between oomycete and fungal surface molecules must have implications for plant recognition of and defence against oomycete pathogens. The aim of this short review is to provide a cell biological framework within which emerging data on the molecular basis of oomycete-plant interactions may be placed.