Conformational energy calculations were performed on monosaccharide and oligosaccharide inhibitors and substrates of lysozyme to examine the preferred conformations of these molecules. A grid‐search method was used to locate all of the low‐energy conformational regions for N‐acetyl‐β‐D‐glycosamine (NAG), and energy minimization was then carried out in each of these regions. Three stable positions for the N‐acetyl group have ben located, in two of which the plane of the amide unit is normal to the mean plane of the pyranosyl ring. Nine local energy minima were located for the —CH2OH group. The positions of the two vicinal cis —OH groups are determined predominantly by interactions with either the —CH2OH or the N‐acetyl group. The most stable conformations of β‐N‐acetylmuramic acid (NAM) were determined from the study of the low‐energy conformations of NAG. In the two stable orientations for the D‐lactic acid side chain, the O—C—C′ plane (C′ being the carbon atom of the terminal carboxyl group) was found to be normal to the mean plane of the pyranosyl ring. The low‐energy positions for the COOH group of NAM are determined mainly by interactions with neighboring groups. The conformational preferences of the α‐anomers of NAG and NAM were also explored. The calculated conformation of the N‐acetyl group for α‐NAG was quite close to that determined by X‐ray analysis. Two of the three lowest energy conformations of α‐NAM are similar to the corresponding conformations of the β‐anomer. A third low‐energy structure, which has a hydrogen bond from the NH of the N‐acetyl group to the CO of the lactic acid group, corresponds very closely to the X‐ray structure of this molecule. The preferred conformations of the disaccharides NAG–NAG, NAM–NAG and NAG–NAM were also investigated. Two preferred orientations of the reducing pyranosyl ring relative to the nonreducing ring were found for all of these disaccharides, both of which are close to the extended conformation. In one of these conformations, a hydrogen bond can form between the OH group attached to C3 of the reducing sugar and the ring oxygen of the preceding residue. Each conformation can be stabilized further by a hydrogen bond between the CH2OH (donor) of residue i + 1 and the CO of residue i (acceptor). The interactions that determine conformations for all oligosaccharides containing both NAG and NAM are shown to be exclusively intraresidue and nearest neighbor interactions, so that it is possible to predict all stable conformations of oligosaccharides containing NAG and NAM in any sequence.