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Say I have the following

printf(text goes here);

and I select "text goes here" in visual mode...
How do I quickly change it to

printf("text goes here");
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up vote 4 down vote accepted

This is intended to answer the specific question that you asked. You state that you have visually selected some text and want to surround it with quotes. To do that, run:


To break that into parts:

  • : allows you to enter ex commands.

  • s/old/new/ is the usual substitute command.

  • \%V is an under-documented atom to mark the beginning of the selected text

  • \(.*\) selects everything and save it into selection 1.

  • The second \%V signifies the end of the selected text.

  • The replacement text is everyting that was selected, which is stored in \1, surrounded by quotes: "\1".

This command applies line by line. So, you may get unwanted results if the selected text extends over multiple lines.

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I think there's a bug. printf(text goes here); becomes printf("text goes her"e);. – Cristian Ciupitu Jul 12 '14 at 22:50
@CristianCiupitu It is not clear to me if that is a vim bug or not. In either case, a simple workaround is to highlight one extra character. – John1024 Jul 12 '14 at 23:35
For the record, I used with vim-enhanced-7.4.179-1.fc20.x86_64. – Cristian Ciupitu Jul 12 '14 at 23:41
@CristianCiupitu @John1024 %V just matches the selection up to before the cursor, therefor if the e is the last character in the selection, then the second %V is not inside the selection and ignores the last e. – Dwight Spencer Oct 14 '15 at 20:11
@John1024 the real work around would be to use the more appropriate '<,'> or in a pinch include a . after the second \%V – Dwight Spencer Oct 14 '15 at 20:15

You should research more. What Vim command(s) can be used to quote/unquote words?


surround.vim is going to be your easiest answer. If you are truly set against using it, here are some examples for what you can do. Not necessarily the most efficient, but that's why surround.vim was written.

  • Quote a word, using single quotes ciw'Ctrl+r"'
    • ciw - Delete the word the cursor is on, and end up in insert mode.
    • ' - add the first quote.
    • Ctrl+r" - Insert the contents of the " register, aka the last yank/delete.
    • ' - add the closing quote.

  • Unquote a word that's enclosed in single quotes di'hPl2x
    • di' - Delete the word enclosed by single quotes.
    • hP - Move the cursor left one place (on top of the opening quote) and put the just deleted text before the quote.
    • l - Move the cursor right one place (on top of the opening quote).
    • 2x - Delete the two quotes.

  • Change single quotes to double quotes va':s/\%V'\%V/"/g
    • va' - Visually select the quoted word and the quotes.
    • :s/ - Start a replacement.
    • \%V'\%V - Only match single quotes that are within the visually selected region.
    • /"/g - Replace them all with double quotes.
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tl;dr Install surround.vim, visually select the text then press S". – Cristian Ciupitu Jul 12 '14 at 22:45
@CristianCiupitu ysi)" without visual mode. – FDinoff Jul 12 '14 at 23:13

The command sequence cw""<ESC>P is the close thing that can do a surrounding of text and works by cutting the word(string of alphanumeric characters: a-z, A-Z, 0-9, including the _ [underscore]), then inserts the text "", and hitting the escape key( to escape out of insert mode one then is able to paste before the cursor. Thus the command breaks down to:

c - cut into register

w - regex match \w

"" - insert two " charactures at current cursor position

<ESC> - VIM Short hand for hit the excape key, in this context return to command mode

P - paste current register

However in the case of longer sets of strings on the current line that one wishes to surround one would need to use suspsitution regex commands with a capture group such as:


This command store the resulting matched regex captured as group '1' and preform substitution to insert the group's contents inside your quotes. Thus, given the text:

fubar: 1


"fubar": 1

The vim intro help file is one of the best resources for anyone along with the :help command.

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This works great with visual mode as well – predikt Mar 29 at 17:52

Don't use visual mode. Simply change the text in the parens to "", and then paste the deleted text in between. ci)""<Esc>P

If you want to use visual mode, it works the same, you just drop the 'i)' part: c""<Esc>P

(<Esc> means hit the escape key)

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