In recent years, research in organophosphorus chemistry has mainly focused in designing newer and better phosphorus ligands for synthesizing novel metal complexes with improved catalytic activities. Aminophosphines [tricoordinate phosphorus(III)–nitrogen systems] are considered as versatile compounds owing to the presence of nitrogen centres which, in principle, can influence additional reactivity features. They are quite sensitive to air and moisture due to the presence of polar PN bond(s). In spite of this, research in aminophosphine chemistry is gaining momentum day-by-day and this is due mainly to one reason: their rich behaviour as ligands in metal complex chemistry and subsequently in catalysis. Their role as synthons in inorganic heterocyclic chemistry has also helped produce new types of heterocycles. In this paper, the chemistry of simple acyclic aminophosphines (synthesis, characterization, reactivity and applications) is covered and particular focus is given to their ability to form chalcogenides along with their role played as ligands in coordination chemistry and as synthons in inorganic heterocyclic chemistry. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.