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I do not understand why these two loops are different. It must have something to do with when the brace expansion is performed and how white space is interpreted

for i in b{e,\ }s ; do echo $i ; done

for i in bes b s ; do echo $i ; done

and consider this too

for i in $(echo b{e,\ }s) ; do echo $i ; done

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When you do for i in b{e,\ }s ; do echo $i ; done, the brace expansion b{e,\ }s is expanded into two arguments, one is bes and another is b s so the for loop has two values to iterate over. Note that here b s is a single argument.

On the other hand, in for i in bes b s ; do echo $i ; done, you are explicitly mentioning three arguments to iterate over (separated by spaces), namely bes, b and s.

In the third case, the command substitution $(echo b{e,\ }s) will generate three arguments bes, b and s so again the for loop have three values to iterate over just like the second case.

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