Most proteins begin to fold during biosynthesis on the ribosome. It has been suggested that interactions between the emerging polypeptide and the ribosome surface might allow the ribosome itself to modulate co-translational folding. Here we combine protein engineering and NMR spectroscopy to characterize a series of interactions between the ribosome surface and unfolded nascent chains of the immunoglobulin-like FLN5 filamin domain. The strongest interactions are found for a C-terminal segment that is essential for folding, and we demonstrate quantitative agreement between the strength of this interaction and the energetics of the co-translational folding process itself. Mutations in this region that reduce the extent of binding result in a shift in the co-translational folding equilibrium towards the native state. Our results therefore demonstrate that a competition between folding and binding provides a simple, dynamic mechanism for the modulation of co-translational folding by the ribosome. o̧pyright 2021. The Author(s).