Could we use être as the auxiliary verb in the sentences below?

La fourmi est monté le poteau au coin de la rue. Elle est montée la colline pour prendre des photos. Les saumons sont montés les cascades au printemps.

Grammar books say that when the verb monter is transitive it should be used with avoir. Yet, I see some people use the verb être in similar sentences:

Hier soir, Monsieur Picard est allé au cinéma à pied. Il est monté les escaliers jusqu'au centre-ville.

Could I follow suit? Or are such sentences unacceptable?

  • 2
    Il est monté les escaliers jusqu'au centre-ville. doesn't work.
    – Frank
    Jul 20, 2023 at 6:40
  • 1
    but Il est monté par les escalier jusqu'au centre ville would.
    – jlliagre
    Jul 20, 2023 at 9:34
  • 2
    @Frank Être or avoir, that is the question! ;-)
    – jlliagre
    Jul 20, 2023 at 10:15
  • 2
    La fourmi est montée sur le poteau. Elle est montée sur la colline. Les saumons on remonté/gravi/franchi les cascades.
    – jlliagre
    Jul 20, 2023 at 10:16
  • 1
    Past particles agree with direct objects: la colline qu'il a montée hier. If you had an être verb with a direct object before the verb, would the past participle have to agree with both the subject and the direct object? Jul 20, 2023 at 12:39

2 Answers 2


As you said, using avoir or être as an auxiliary with the verb monter depends on the context of an object complement or COD, complément objet direct. With monter l'escalier, use avoir.

Julien a monté l’escalier quatre à quatre.


With the other sentences you give, there is also a direct object complement. I would use avoir with all of them (unless you use a preposition like dans or à).

  • Les saumons ont monté les cascades.

Without a direct object, especially when the subject is a person, use être :

Harold est monté se reposer quelques minutes.


Before anything, be careful that "monter" isn't an exact equivalent of "to walk up". Most of the time it means "to mount" and it can have a sexual meaning.

The rule is hard to grasp, but here are ways to help you get it right.

You can use avoir monté if the direct object is something that is being climbed upon. So the sentence:

X a monté Y.

Should have the same meaning at the passive voice:

Y est monté* par X. (you have to make the agreement with Y, so you'd write la fourmi est montée.)

For example:

J'ai monté un cheval. (I mounted a horse)

Un cheval a été monté par moi. (A horse was mounted by me)


Je suis monté sur un cheval. (I climbed onto a horse)

Because you can't say:

Sur un cheval a été monté par moi. (Onto a horse was climbed by me?)


La fourmi est montée sur le poteau. (The ant climbed on the post)


La fourmi a monté le poteau.

This last one, depending on the context, could mean

  • "the ant mounted the post" (maybe it expected the post to start moving like a horse)

  • "the ant assembled the post" (it received a lego set of a post and built it up)

  • "the ant brought the post in a higher place" (it was needed upstairs for some reason)

  • "the ant crossed the post to move upward" (the ant path goes through climbing up this post)

Same goes for "la colline", "les cascades" and "les escaliers":

Elle est montée sur la colline. / Elle a monté la colline

Les saumons sont montés par les cascades. / Les saumons ont monté les cascades.

Il est monté par les escaliers. / Il a monté les escaliers.

  • The ant climbed up the post. However, for stairs we say go up or climbed the stairs. The salmon jumped up the waterfalls. Or leapt up the waterfalls. They went or swam upstream by jumping over the waterfalls. Il a monté une affaire. He set up. The boy [better than ant here] took the post upstairs. The boy set up the post, too.
    – Lambie
    Jul 21, 2023 at 20:50
  • Monter à cheval est figé pour riding a horse.
    – livresque
    Jul 21, 2023 at 21:55
  • 1
    La fourmi est montée sur le poteau. / Elle est montée sur la colline.
    – jlliagre
    Jul 21, 2023 at 22:26
  • 1
    @livresque Monter à cheval et monter un cheval existent tous deux avec des sens et des usages distincts.
    – jlliagre
    Jul 21, 2023 at 23:10

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