The basic elements of the transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ) pathway were revealed more than a decade ago. Since then, the concept of how the TGFβ signal travels from the membrane to the nucleus has been enriched with additional findings, and its multifunctional nature and medical relevance have relentlessly come to light. However, an old mystery has endured: how does the context determine the cellular response to TGFβ? Solving this question is key to understanding TGFβ biology and its many malfunctions. Recent progress is pointing at answers.