Tetra- and trifluoronitroanilines were studied by electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. These compounds gave signals only in the negative-ion mode. It was found that the so-called ‘in-source’ fragmentation, induced by cone voltage increase, enables differentiation of isomers. For para-nitroanilines, in contrast to ortho derivatives, the loss of NO2 was the most favored process and other fragment ions were characterized by low abundances. For trifluoro conjugates the substitution pattern of aromatic ring by fluorine atoms also affected their fragmentation patterns. For example, in 2,3,6-trifluoro-4-nitroaniline, in contrast to 2,3,5-trifluoro-4-nitroaniline, efficient NO loss, followed by HF loss, took place. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.