Most bacteria can selectively use substrates from a mixture of different carbon sources. The presence of preferred carbon sources prevents the expression, and often also the activity, of catabolic systems that enable the use of secondary substrates. This regulation, called carbon catabolite repression (CCR), can be achieved by different regulatory mechanisms, including transcription activation and repression and control of translation by an RNA-binding protein, in different bacteria. Moreover, CCR regulates the expression of virulence factors in many pathogenic bacteria. In this Review, we discuss the most recent findings on the different mechanisms that have evolved to allow bacteria to use carbon sources in a hierarchical manner.