Il y a dans la préface du roman Notre-Dame de Paris la phrase suivante :

Car c’est ainsi qu’on agit depuis tantôt deux cents ans avec les merveilleuses églises du moyen-âge.

Ce que je voudrais savoir, c'est s'il s'agit d'une expression idiomatique. Je me le demande car la combinaison des mots depuis tantôt me semble intraduisible.

  • Welcome to stack exchange! Good question. I can't even begin to guess what this sentence means. On agit and depuis tantôt both seem ambiguous. Apr 1, 2017 at 7:59
  • @Aerovistae Thanks. Indeed they are. Hence my question in the first place. I know that "tantôt" is a synonym of "bientôt," which of course means "soon," but when you put this word together with "depuis ... deux cents ans," which translates as "for two centuries," the combination thereof doesn't seem, at least to me, to make a lot of sense. Apr 1, 2017 at 8:09
  • Actually I can guess: The preceding sentence describes an inscription being painted over or scraped away, so this might mean And so it is that we've behaved for the past 200 years towards the marvelous churches of the Middles Ages. If I am right, depuis tantôt deux cents ans is something like since 200 years earlier. But worry not, some expert will waltz in and give a definitive answer before morning. Apr 1, 2017 at 8:10
  • And bientôt might be a synonym of tantôt in some contexts, but I am inclined to think this is not one of them. I think it means earlier here, not soon. Apr 1, 2017 at 8:13
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    Depuis bientôt deux cents ans is idiomatic. Tantôt is an outdated synonym here.
    – jlliagre
    Apr 1, 2017 at 9:51

2 Answers 2


depuis tantôt deux cents ans


depuis bientôt deux cents ans


depuis presque deux cents ans

That leads you to:

for nearly 200 years

  • Does "tantôt" also mean "presque"? Would you be so kind as to indicate the source for this? As a philologist, I really need to be mathematically exact when it comes to the meanings of words. Thank you. Apr 1, 2017 at 10:02
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    @user26328 Hi. No, it's not that "tantôt/bientôt" has the meaning of "almost". But the idea that "it will soon{tantôt} be 200 years" in English is virtually the same by interpretation as "it is almost{presque} 200 years". Incidentally, "tantôt" is outdated, compared to "bientôt". Apr 1, 2017 at 10:14
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    As previousluy stated tantôt is here a synonym of bientôt. Let's do it on a more usual expression. Il est bientôt cinq heures → It'll soon be five" , so far I expect we agree. Wouldn't you say that "it'll soon be five" means the same as"it's nearly five" ? I would definitely translate c’est ainsi qu’on agit depuis tantôt deux cents ans by "that's what we've been doing for nearly 200 years". Words are not context free and nearly is an appropriate translation in this context, it would not work in any context.
    – None
    Apr 1, 2017 at 10:15
  • @Laure Oui, c'est très clair maintenant. Merci beaucoup. J'ai tout compris depuis tantôt quelque secondes... Apr 1, 2017 at 10:34
  • @user26328 you should accept an answer and make a full-time account to join FL.stackexchange for real! Apr 1, 2017 at 20:17

depuis tantôt deux cents ans = depuis bientôt deux cents ans

"it will soon be 200 years" = "it is almost 200 years"

The "tantôt/bientôt" is inserted here to express the idea of "approaching 200 years", as opposed to simply saying "depuis deux cents ans" that denotes "it has already reached the mark of 200 years".

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