Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the commonest endocrine disorder affecting women of reproductive age. Some 20% of women will have polycystic ovaries on an ultrasound scan and around 7% of women have the additional clinical or biochemical features of PCOS. As a complex multisystem disorder its background can be confusing to understand. They key feature, however, is an increased production of androgen by the ovaries. This review uses ovarian biology to describe a strategy to aid understanding and explanation of PCOS. This framework can be also be used to teach about PCOS and to inform different approaches to its management.