The cap structure and the poly(A) tail synergistically activate mRNA translation in vivo. Recent work using Saccharomyces cerevisiae spheroplasts and a yeast cell-free translation system revealed that the poly(A) tail can function as an independent promotor for ribosome recruitment, to internal initiation sites within an mRNA. This raises the question of how regulatory upstream open reading frames and translational repressor proteins binding to the 5′ UTR can function, as well as how regulated polyadenylation can support faithful activation of protein synthesis. We investigated the function of the regulatory upstream open reading frame 4 from the yeast GCN 4 gene and the effect of IRP-1 binding to an iron-responsive element introduced into the 5′ UTR of reporter mRNAs. Both manipulations effectively block cap-dependent translation, whereas ribosome recruitment promoted by the poly(A) tail under noncompetitive conditions can efficiently bypass both blocks. We show that the synergistic use of both, the cap structure and the poly-A tail enforced by mRNA competition reinstates the full extent of translational control by both types of 5′ UTR regulatory elements. With a view towards regulated polyadenylation, we studied the function of poly(A) tails of defined length on the translation of capped mRNAs. We find that poly(A) tail elongation increases translational efficiency, particularly under competitive conditions. Our results integrate recent findings on the function of the poly(A) tail into an understanding of translational control.