Although these two words are obviously closely related (I believe tunc = tum + ce), I would like to know whether they are usually interchangeable and the meaning differences that exist between them.

If I want to refer to a past time (tum/tunc homines alas habebant), which is appropriate? Can both be used to indicate sequentiality, like deinde or English then?

2 Answers 2


Smith's suggests that tunc (formed from tum + -ce, the enclitic adding emphasis) differs from tum only in being slightly stronger; although, since either is often strengthened by demum, etc., to me it seems a pretty fine distinction.

When making a contrast (tum . . . cum . .), I think using tunc for tum would be just clumsy; for the same reason I would use only tunc in a contrast with nunc.

  • 2
    I'm now imagining the phrase tunc . . . cunc . . . :) Commented Aug 18, 2016 at 20:13
  • L&S has this to say: "Undue weight has been given by some critics to opposition to nunc and connection with cum; cf. Kritz ad Sall. J. 5, 1; Zumpt ad Cic. Verr. 2, 4, 64, § 142; 2, 5, 10, § 27. Both tum and tunc are freq. opposed to nunc, and connected with cum. "
    – Marc
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 10:00
  • @TomCotton, great answer. Do you know what "stronger" means in this case? Does tunc suggest that X is no longer the case?
    – brianpck
    Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 12:53

Does tunc suggest that X is no longer the case?

It seems unlikely. At least, if it does, the English and American lawyers didn't know it. The first time I recall coming across the word tunc was in the legal phrase "nunc pro tunc," which is used about an order that is meant to take effect as of a past time and to remain in effect through the present time and into the indefinite future.

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