Hybrid systems are dynamical systems with the ability to describe mixed discrete-continuous evolution of a wide range of systems. Consequently, at first glance, hybrid systems appear powerful but recalcitrant, neither yielding to analysis and reasoning through a purely continuous-time modeling as with systems of differential equations, nor open to inferential processes commonly used for discrete state-transition systems such as finite state automata. A convenient and popular model, called hybrid automata, was introduced to model them and has spurred much interest on its tractability as a tool for inference and model checking in a general setting. Intuitively, a hybrid automaton is simply a ‘finite-state’ automaton with each state augmented by continuous variables, which evolve according to a set of well-defined continuous laws, each specified separately for each state. This article investigates both the notion of hybrid automaton and the model checking problem over such a structure. In particular, it relates first-order theories and analysis results on multivalued maps and reduces the bounded reachability problem for hybrid automata whose continuous laws are expressed by inclusions (x ′ ∈ f (x, t)) to a decidability problem for first-order formulæ over the reals. Furthermore, the paper introduces a class of hybrid automata for which the reachability problem can be decided and shows that the problem of deciding whether a hybrid automaton belongs to this class can be again decided using first-order formulæ over the reals. Despite the fact that the bisimulation quotient for this class of hybrid automata can be infinite, we show that our techniques permit effective model checking for a nontrivial fragment of CTL. © 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.