Neonatal respiratory failure is a common and serious clinical problem which in a considerable proportion of infants requires invasive mechanical ventilation. The basic goal of mechanical ventilation is to restore lung function while limiting ventilator-induced lung injury, which is considered an important risk factor in the development of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). Over the last decades, new conventional mechanical ventilation (CMV) modalities have been introduced in clinical practice, aiming to assist clinicians in providing lung protective ventilation strategies. These modalities use more sophisticated techniques to improve patient-ventilator interaction and transfer control of ventilation from the operator to the patient. Knowledge on how these new modalities work and how they interact with lung physiology is essential for optimal and safe use. In this review, we will discuss some important basic lung physiological aspects for applying CMV, the basic principles of the old and new CMV modalities, and the evidence to support their use in daily clinical practice.