Carbohydrates can provide up to 80% of the dry matter in animal diets, yet their specific evaluation for research and diet formulation is only now becoming a focus in the animal sciences. Partitioning of dietary carbohydrates for nutritional purposes should reflect differences in digestion and fermentation characteristics and effects on animal performance. Key challenges to designating nutritionally important carbohydrate fractions include classifying the carbohydrates in terms of nutritional characteristics, and selecting analytical methods that describe the desired fraction. The relative lack of information on digestion characteristics of various carbohydrates and their interactions with other fractions in diets means that fractions will not soon be perfectly established. Developing a system of carbohydrate analysis that could be used across animal species could enhance the utility of analyses and amount of data we can obtain on dietary effects of carbohydrates. Based on quantities present in diets and apparent effects on animal performance, some nutritionally important classes of carbohydrates that may be valuable to measure include sugars, starch, fructans, insoluble fiber, and soluble fiber. Essential to selection of methods for these fractions is agreement on precisely what carbohydrates should be included in each. Each of these fractions has analyses that could potentially be used to measure them, but most of the available methods have weaknesses that must be evaluated to see if they are fatal and the assay is unusable, or if the assay still may be made workable. Factors we must consider as we seek to analyze carbohydrates to describe diets: Does the assay accurately measure the desired fraction? Is the assay for research, regulatory, or field use (affects considerations of acceptable costs and throughput)? What are acceptable accuracy and variability of measures? Is the assay robust (enhances accuracy of values)? For some carbohydrates, we may have to accept that there are currently no acceptable, widely applicable analyses that meet these criteria, and seek to fill this analytical gap. Overall, there are good possibilities for accomplishing the nutritional partitioning of carbohydrates. But to ensure that this is done well, as a discipline, we need to continue our discussions on the basis for partitioning, on what fractions are actually significant, and rigorously evaluate proposed analyses to verify that they are analytically sound.