SUMMARY A wide variety of mechanisms that control gene expression in bacteria are based on conditional transcription termination. Generally, in these mechanisms, a transcription terminator is located between a promoter and a downstream gene(s), and the efficiency of the terminator is controlled by a regulatory effector that can be a metabolite, protein, or RNA. The most common type of regulation involving conditional termination is transcription attenuation, in which the primary regulatory target is an essential element of a single terminator. The terminator can be either intrinsic or Rho dependent, with each presenting unique regulatory targets. Transcription attenuation mechanisms can be divided into five classes based primarily on the manner in which transcription termination is rendered conditional. This review summarizes each class of control mechanisms from a historical perspective, describes important examples in a physiological context and the current state of knowledge, highlights major advances, and discusses expectations of future discoveries.