The definition of a consistent stress framework is an essential prerequisite to the constitutive modelling of unsaturated soils. It is proposed to clarify the effective stress lexicon commonly used for unsaturated soils, one of the purposes being to contribute to a more accurate definition and understanding of conventional Bishop's stress. The so-called generalised effective stress is formulated on the basis of previous studies and set within a complete constitutive context. A point by point comparison between Bishop's stress and generalised framework is led. The usual analogies between suction effects, cementation and hardening are also discussed. Suction is shown not to be a hardening variable but rather a shape parameter for the yield surface expressed in the matric suction versus mean effective stress plane. Some advantages of the generalised effective stress are finally reviewed, with a particular accent laid on the uniqueness of the yield limit and the built-in hydro-mechanical coupling.