This is similar to a previous question (Spaces around Boolean argument to \IfValueT gives -NoValue-) but the answer to that one involved a math mode character and its catcode, whereas in this question there is no such issue.

Consider this MWE:


\NewDocumentCommand{\testing}{ o }
    \IfValueTF{ #1 }


Without the \ExplSyntaxOn...\ExplSyntaxOff and without any spaces around #1 in \IfValueTF{#1} I get the expected result (false). However, if I put spaces around the argument \IfValueTF{ #1 } I get -NoValue-, unless I also turn on \ExplSyntaxOn...\ExplSyntaxOff. This can't be a mathmode issue or catcode issue like before, at least if it is I don't understand it. Also, if I make the argument to \testing mandatory rather than optional, this doesn't happen, but I still don't get false when I expect to. What is going on in this situation? I know \NewDocumentCommand doesn't require xparse but should I included it anyway and put all my definitions inside \ExplSyntaxOn...\ExplSyntaxOff?

  • 4
    well outside \ExplSyntaxOn spaces matters. \NewDocumentCommand requires xparse, but if you use the new latex-dev format, xparse is already included. Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 18:09
  • 4
    ExplSyntaxOn changes the catcode of space so it's ignored, but you are not using any expl3 code here so it is probably more correct to not use ExplSyntaxOn and not put spurious spaces around #1 so it works. Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 19:29
  • @UlrikeFischer Thank you for telling me about the latex-dev format. I had seen that before but didn't know what it was. Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 19:31
  • 5
    @LaTeXereXeTaL changing catcodes is all it does (more or less) Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 19:34
  • 2
    You might want to look at What do ExplSyntaxOn and ExplSyntaxOff do?.
    – campa
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 7:27

2 Answers 2


Because { #1 } and {#1} are different, unless the spaces get ignored during the tokenization phase.

With the standard category codes, { #1 } is six tokens

{1 <space>10 #6 112 <space>10 }2

In particular, the spaces would be in the replacement text of the macro and the test \IfValueTF{ #1 } will always return true, because, in case the optional argument is missing, the passed argument is <space>-NoValue-<space>, which is different from -NoValue-

On the other hand, after \ExplSyntaxOn the category code of the space is set to 9 and such a character is discarded during the tokenization phase, unless it follows a character of category code 0 (the backslash), so in the expl3 programming environment, the input { #1 } is just four tokens

{1 #6 112 }2

In particular, after \ExplSyntaxOn, one can use “backslash-space” and get the usual token (that is a space in output). The problem of “backslash-space” at the end of a line is solved by setting \endlinechar=32 (the space): TeX removes any trailing space from a line before starting tokenization, but in this case the space is reinserted as the endline character.


As David Carlisle points out, the issue is one of catcodes and how they are affected by \ExplSyntaxOn and \ExplSyntaxOff.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .