After I search for "foo" by doing "?foo", I can search forward by "n" or backward by "N", however sometimes the n/N directions are flipped in the middle of search. If I restart Vim, it's OK again. What key sequence may I have pressed to cause this? How to revert back to normal mode?

I don't recall that I ever ran into this in old Vi.

EDIT: it's not the Caps Lock key. Thanks for the suggestion though.

  • I guess it's not just the wrapping around at the end/beginning of the file? Or maybe you typed * or something that reverses the search? I know I unintentionally do it a lot of time.
    – Dave Vogt
    Aug 9, 2010 at 16:07
  • @Dave Vogt, it's not just end/beginning of the file. I just tested "", you are right, if I press "" I can change/correct the search direction. If you put in an answer, I will vote it up and accept it. Thanks.
    – grokus
    Aug 9, 2010 at 16:15

3 Answers 3


This can happen if you started out searching backwards with ?foobar, and you pressed / in the middle. Now you're searching forward, so n and N are switched relative to what you used to have. The same thing will happen if you started with / and pressed ? in the middle.

  • Sir you are right. I just tested what you said. Could you tell me what role "*" is playing in this midst?
    – grokus
    Aug 9, 2010 at 17:47
  • 1
    @grokus: * means to search forward for whatever word is under the cursor.
    – Daenyth
    Aug 9, 2010 at 18:05
  • @Daenyth, thanks. I always thought that I wasn't too bad at Vim. (I could get things done) Today I'm reconsidering my position.
    – grokus
    Aug 9, 2010 at 18:36
  • and to follow up @Daenyth, you can search backward for whatever word is under the cursor using #. These will match only on the full word. To search for the word under the cursor, including inside other words, use g* Aug 9, 2010 at 19:06

It sounds stupid but did you checked Caps-Lock?

  • yes I did. It was on "off" position. I have seen this behavior so many times so I was finally fed up and decided to get to the bottom of this.
    – grokus
    Aug 9, 2010 at 16:03

Nathan has already answered why this happens, but if you use both directions regularly and want n to always look ahead and N to always look back, no matter which way you searched, you can put this in your .vimrc:

nmap n /<CR>
nmap N ?<CR>

/ and ? without parameters perform the last search, in their respective (absolute) directions.

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