The aim of this study was to evaluate the antibiotic susceptibility of Listeria innocua (L. innocua) and Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes) cells in the presence of citral and carvacrol at sublethal concentrations in an agar medium. The presence of terpenes in the L. monocytogenes and L. innocua culture medium provided a reduction in the minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) of all the antibiotics tested. These effects were dependent on the concentration of terpenes present in the culture medium. The combination of citral and carvacrol potentiated antibiotic activity by reducing the MIC values of bacitracin and colistin from 32·0 and 128·0 μg ml−1 to 1·0 and 2·0 μg ml−1, respectively. Thus, both Listeria species became more susceptible to these drugs. In this way, the colistin and bacitracin resistance of L. monocytogenes and L. innocua was reversed in the presence of terpenes. Results obtained in this study show that the phytochemicals citral and carvacrol potentiate antibiotic activity, reducing the MIC values of cultured L. monocytogenes and L. innocua.