Infertility is a common problem, affecting perhaps one couple in six, the majority of whom now seek medical care. Although diagnostic problems make it difficult to establish the extent of the male partner's contribution with certainty, a number of studies suggest that male problems represent the commonest single defined cause of infertility. The World Health Organization has proposed a scheme for the diagnostic classification of male infertility, based upon a standardized approach to clinical assessment and to the assessment of semen quality. Some of these classifications are now controversial, and many are descriptive, rather than aetiological. Increasingly, the importance of occupation, environmental and particularly genetic factors in the causation of male infertility is being recognized.