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What is the difference between “Table de matières” and “Table des matières”?

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The version lacking an s is much rarer and dubious. After digging the few occurrences found by Google books, most of them seem to be just typos / mistakes.

Here are some occurrences of this dubious usage (the first one uses both forms):


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Similar phrases only use des:

  • Table des illustrations
  • Table des chapitres
  • Table des références

Des makes sense because the table is referring to specific contents (Table of the contents/illustrations/chapters/references present in this book).

Compare:

  • Liste de noms: A "random" list of names.

  • Liste des noms: A list containing "the" names.

When the table contains generic content, de can be more frequent:

  • Table de logarithmes (there is an infinite number of logarithms, the table can't be exhaustive.)
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Table des matières:

La table des matières est placée à la fin de l’ouvrage. Elle détaille l’ensemble des divisions d’un document : parties, sous-parties, chapitres, paragraphes, etc.

Sommaire:

Un sommaire est généralement placé au début de l’ouvrage. Il présente une liste synthétique des divisions du livre (par exemple, les grandes parties).

Table de matières sans s est très rare, voir utilisé uniquement lors d'exceptions en français.

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Table des matières means table of contents (in a book or similar document). Table de matières is incorrect.

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