Monter is a verb that you run into a lot in French, and no wonder. While its overall sense is “to go up or put up”, it has several other meanings that make it very useful in everyday life.
Intriguingly – and helpfully – nearly of these meanings translate directly into English and are used in similar ways.
Let’s find out what monter is “up” to!
What does the French verb monter mean?
Monter has several meanings, but all of them have a sense of going up. If you look in an online or print dictionary, you’ll usually find a massive list of different subtle definitions. Here are the most important ones to know:
To go from a low place to a high place
Examples: Au sous-sol inondé, l’eau montait jusqu’à mes genoux. Alors, je suis monté sur une chaise. (In the flooded basement, the water was up to my knees. So, I got up onto a chair.)
To go up/to climb
Examples: Pierre et Jean sont en train de monter l’escalier. (Pierre et Jean are climbing/coming up the stairs.). Le prix du porc a beaucoup monté ces derniers mois. (The price of pork has really gone up these past few months.
To put up/construct
Examples: Au Scouts, nous avons appris à monter une tente. (In Boy Scouts, we learned to pitch a tent.) Lucas est très maladroit ; c’est sa femme qui a monté leurs meubles. (Lucas is very clumsy ; his wife is the one who put together their furniture.)
To raise (including volume)
Examples : Aux mariages juifs traditionnels, les mariés s’assoient sur des chaises que l’on monte au-dessus de la foule dansante. (At traditional Jewish weddings, the bride and groom sit on chairs that are raised up by the dancing crowd.) Il a monté le son trop fort! (He put the volume too loud!)
Examples: Le Burj Khalifa monte jusqu’à 828 mètres ! (The Burj Khalifa rises 828 high!) L’eau monte. (The water is rising.). Cet auteur de polaires est vachement doué pour faire monter le suspens ! (This crime novel author is bloody good at mounting suspense.)
To ride (transportation)
Examples: Julien monte dans le train. (Julien gets on the train.). Erika aime monter à cheval. (Erika loves riding horses.). As these examples show, the preposition that follows monter varies depending on the type of transportation. We’ll look at this in-depth a little later in the article.
In this sense, monter is usually followed by un projet (de). But in everyday spoken language, it’s often shortened simply to monter . For example, you might hear On a monté une boîte ensemble (We started a business together) instead of the more formal (and clunkier) On a monté un projet de creation d’entreprise.
To beat or whisk
If you’re reading cooking instructions in French, that’s what monter would most likely mean in this context. Example: Montez les blancs en neige (Beat the egg whites till stiff.)
To edit a film
In the phrase monter un film, monter means “to edit.” And as a general rule, if monter is being talked about connection with a film, it probably has to do with editing it. Example : Elle a passé les six derniers mois à monter le film. (She’s spent the last six months editing the film.). This said, there could be a bit of confusion if you don’t have the exact context, since monter un film can mean “finance or make the film”, as well, but due to this, you’d more likely hear a more specific verb used, for example financer un film.
Is monter conjugated with avoir or être?
Monter is a regular -er verb. But things aren’t so simple. Many French verbs that are often conjugated with avoir can sometimes be conjugated with être to suggest, for example, a notion of reflexivity or to differentiate between who is performing or being affected by an action. It’s less clear with monter.
This webpage offers the best explanation I’ve ever seen for when to use avoir or être with monter:
If monter is followed by a preposition, use être as the auxiliary verb.
If monter is directly followed by a noun, use avoir as the auxiliary verb.
For those of you who really love the nitty-gritty of grammar, you can say that monter is conjugated with être if it’s used as an intransitive verb. Monter is conjugated with avoir if it’s used as a transitive verb.
How to conjugate the verb monter
Keeping in mind that, as we just discussed, monter can be conjugated with either avoir or être in its compound tenses (depending on whether it’s being used as a transitive or intransitive verb), here’s how to conjugate the most common tenses of monter:
|Que je monte||Monte (tu)|
|Que tu montes||Montez (vous)|
|Qu’il/elle/on monte||Montons (nous)|
|Que nous montions|
|Que vous montiez|
Which preposition to use with monter + transportation
As I mentioned earlier, one of the meanings of monter is the idea of getting on/into/taking some kind of transportation. You can use monter with everything from a plane, car, train, horse, and so on, but unfortunately, not all forms of transportation use the same preposition.
Most often, you’ll see three prepositions used with monter and a form of transportation: dans, à, and en. For example: monter dans le train, monter en train, monter à cheval. Here’s when to use each.:
monter dans – literally getting into a form of transportation
Example: <<Au revoir,>> Daniel nous a dit, puis il est monté dans le train. (“Goodbye,” Daniel said, then he got onto the train.)
monter à – This is used with things you ride on top of, not inside.
WordReference puts this really well, defining it as “to straddle” something. Nous sommes montés a vélo et puis nous sommes partis ! (We got on our bikes and off we went ! Or Alice aime monter à cheval mais je préfère monter à vélo. (Alice likes horseback riding but I prefer riding a bike.) . Note that if you want to specifically draw attention to the way someone is getting on top of something, you would say it this way, instead: monter sur le dos du cheval (to get onto the horse’s back).
And keep in mind that this is just one meaning of monter à. If the phrase isn’t used with transportation, it can mean “to go up to”. For example, Ce weekend, Hugues et moi allons monter à Paris . (This weekend, Hugues and I are going up to Paris.)
monter en – to travel by a certain means of transportation, or, in the case of a car (voiture), to get in the car.
Monter en is usually a sort of vague suggestion, rather than a deep look at the process of actually entering a vehicle. A rough equivalent in English would be “went by car/plane/train etc.”
You’ll often see monter en separated from the mode of transportation in a sentence. For example: Ils monteront à Lille en train. (They’ll go up to Lille by train.).
Although monter en voiture is an exception, meaning simply “to get in the car,” you can also use monter dans la voiture.
You can see examples of both being used when you do an online search for “monter en voiture.” Among other results, what comes up are many videos posted by native French speakers about training their dogs to get into the car. Monter dans seems to be used slightly more often than monter en in these videos, and no wonder, since we’re specifically focusing on the act of the dog getting into the car, not the general idea of a dog riding in a car.
Here are some words that are tied to monter by etymology as well as meaning.
Le Mont – Mount (the name of a mountain). Example: Le Mont Saint-Michel
le montage – to put together, to edit, etc. – Montage can have many different meanings depending on the context. In a phrase like montage de meubles, it means “putting together”; in a phrase like montage d’un film, it means “editing a film.”
remonter – to go up again/bring up again. This word is most commonly used in everyday language with the phrase remonter le moral de (qqn) –to cheer someone up. Example: Merci pour la carte. Ça m’a vraiment remonté le moral. (Thank you for the card. It really cheered me up.) You can read about some other uses of remonter here.
surmonter – to overcome something. Example: Il faut surmonter sa peur. (You must overcome your fear.). Surmonter can also mean “to be physically above everything”. Ex: Le pignon du toit est surmonté par la statuette d’une chouette. (On top of the gable is a small statue of an owl.)
une montée – a slope/climb/rise. Example: Quand tu es à Philadelphie, n’oublie pas de faire la montée des marches devant le Museum of Arts – tu seras comme Rocky! (When you’re in Philadelphia, don’t forget to do the run up the stairs in front of the Museum of Arts -you’ll be like Rocky!)You can see more about how this word is used here.
Common monter phrases
Here are some phrases with monter that you’ll often come across:
à monter soi-même – something you have to put together yourself/some assembly required. You’ll often see this on websites or packaging for furniture. Example: Cette étagère est à monter soi-même. (Some assembly required (for this shelf).)
monter à bord – to get on board a ship or other vehicle.
monter sur scène – to get on stage, to go before the public. Edith Piaf est montée sur scène pour la première fois en 1935, mais avant elle chantait dans les rues de Paris. (Edith Piaf made her stage début in 1935, but before that she sang on the streets of Paris.).
monter en grade – to get a higher position in your company.
monter en puissance – to get more powerful. Ex: Les pouvoirs du méchant sorcier montaient en puissance chaque jour. (The evil wizard’s powers grew stronger each day.)
monter un coup – to plot something, plan, scheme. Example: On va monter un coup pour qu’il finisse en prison. (We’ll make a scheme that will land him in prison!)
monter le son – to put the volume louder. <<Monte le son>> is a common phrase you’ll see in press about musicians and concerts.
monter un spectacle – to create, produce, and put on a play.
Voilà! Your knowledge of <<monter>> monte en puissance! Try to use this useful word whenever possible!