Monter is a French verb that can come in handy in many situations. We find the most basic meaning of the verb in our interview with Joanna, whose apartment is so tiny that her entire kitchen fits inside a cupboard! And although living on the ground floor means she doesn’t have to climb any stairs, she does have to climb a ladder to get to her bed
J’habite au rez-de-chaussée, donc je n’ai pas besoin de monter les escaliers.
I live on the ground floor, so I don’t need to go up the stairs.
Cap. 6, L’appartement: de Joanna
C’est pour dormir, avec mon lit, et je dois monter à cette échelle.
It’s for sleeping, with my bed, and I have to climb this ladder.
Cap. 14, L’appartement: de Joanna
Joanna uses the verb monter to describe going up the stairs and climbing the ladder. Although “to go up” is the verb's most basic meaning, there are quite a few others. For example, a price or a level of something can also monter:
Le prix de l’essence monte chaque année.
The price of gas rises every year.
Jean-Marc also uses the verb to talk about getting inside his dream car:
À chaque fois que je monte dedans, j’y prends beaucoup de plaisir.
Every time I get in, I enjoy it very much.
Cap. 12, Jean-Marc: Voiture de rêve
The opposite of monter is descendre (to go down), and just as monter can refer to getting into a car or onto a bus or train, descendre refers to getting out or off:
On va monter dans le train à Bastille et descendre à République.
We’ll get on the train at Bastille and get off at République.
Note that it’s monter dans le train (literally, “to go up into the train”) and descendre du train (to descend from the train).
When monter is used with a direct object, it can mean “to put up,” “set up,” “establish,” or “put together”:
C’était un peu une façon pour moi et de faire un film et de monter une pièce.
It was kind of a way for me to make not only a film but also to stage a play.
Il a réussi à monter sa propre pizzeria.
He succeeded in opening his own pizzeria.
Cap. 3, Le Journal: Les microcrédits
Donc, le crapaud, il va falloir beaucoup plus de temps pour le monter.
So for the squat armchair, it will take much longer to put it together.
Speaking of direct objects, it’s good to know what to do with monter in the past tense (passé composé). Monter is one of the few verbs that usually takes the auxiliary être in the passé composé instead of avoir:
Joanna est montée à l’échelle.
Joanna climbed the ladder.
But when monter takes a direct object and becomes transitive, it does take avoir:
Nous avons monté une pièce.
We staged a play.
The passé composé is a very tricky aspect of French grammar. You can find a detailed introduction to it here.
This lesson just dips its toe into the verb’s numerous possibilities: you can also monter un film (edit a film), monter à cheval (ride a horse), monter un complot (hatch a plot), monter au combat (go to battle), monter des blancs d’œufs (whisk egg whites), and much more!
You can find a comprehensive list of monter's meanings on this site.