Bimolecular reactions in the gas phase exhibit rich and varied dynamical behaviour, but whether a profound knowledge of the mechanisms of isolated reactive collisions can usefully inform our understanding of reactions in liquid solutions remains an open question. The fluctuating environment in a liquid may significantly alter the motions of the reacting particles and the flow of energy into the reaction products after a transition state has been crossed. Recent experimental and computational studies of exothermic reactions of CN radicals with organic molecules indicate that many features of the gas-phase dynamics are retained in solution. However, observed differences may also provide information on the ways in which a solvent modifies fundamental chemical mechanisms. This perspective examines progress in the use of time-resolved infra-red spectroscopy to study reaction dynamics in liquids, discusses how existing theories can guide the interpretation of experimental data, and suggests future challenges for this field of research.