Production of type I interferon (IFN-α/β) is a common cellular response to virus infection. IFN-α/β has a dual role in combating infection, triggering innate antiviral mechanisms and stimulating the generation of an adaptive immune response. This review focuses on the effects of IFN-α/β on one particular immune cell type, the T cell, and the impact of IFN-α/β-mediated signalling in T cells on the immune response. The critical role of T-cell responsiveness to IFN-α/β for the generation of productive T-cell responses after infections with certain viruses in vivo is discussed in the context of in vitro experiments investigating the mechanisms by which IFN-α/β modifies T-cell function. These studies reveal complex effects of IFN-α/β on T cells, with the consequences of exposure to IFN-α/β depending on the context of other signals received by the T cell.