In CVS, revision numbers are per file. This is because CVS stores its data in RCS files; each file has a corresponding RCS file in the repository, and the repository is roughly laid out according to the structure of your project tree.
In Subversion, the repository looks like a single filesystem. Each commit results in an entirely new filesystem tree; in essence, the repository is an array of trees. Each of these trees is labeled with a single revision number. When someone talks about “revision 54,” he’s talking about a particular tree (and indirectly, the way the filesystem looked after the 54th commit).
Technically, it’s not valid to talk about “revision 5 of foo.c.” Instead, one would say “foo.c as it appears in revision 5.” Also, be careful when making assumptions about the evolution of a file. In CVS, revisions 5 and 6 of foo.c are always different. In Subversion, it’s most likely that foo.c did not change between revisions 5 and 6.
Similarly, in CVS, a tag or branch is an annotation on the file or on the version information for that individual file, whereas in Subversion, a tag or branch is a copy of an entire tree (by convention, into the /branches or /tags directories that appear at the top level of the repository, beside /trunk). In the repository as a whole, many versions of each file may be visible: the latest version on each branch, every tagged version, and of course the latest version on the trunk itself. So, to refine the terms even ...