Let's get directly to it.

I was working with some python code and realized I had written a bunch of elif blocks as else if after working too much in Javascript.

My natural thought was "cool, I can make an abbreviation to fix those for me so I don't have to think much about it". Then I realized {lhs} of abbreviations can't contain spaces.

I could of course abbrev elif to else if and :iunab it for python, but I was wondering if there's a way to fix it if I ever do happen to write an else if in python. I dug through the :h ab files.

:inoreabbreviate <expr> if f where f steps back one word and checks if it's an else-if block could work, but I'm wondering if there's any other way that I just don't know of?

2 Answers 2


This might not be the perfect answer, but I kind of solved the problem by creating the following augroup:

augroup filetype_python
autocmd BufRead,BufWrite *.py :%s/else if/elif/g
augroup END

Basically, it will substitute "else if" with "elif" (:%s/else if/elif/g) whenever a *.py file is:

  • read (BufRead, e.g :split testfile.py) or
  • written (BufWrite, e.g :wq to close save and close the current file)

So, it means that if you suddenly find out that you have been writing "else if" you could either write the file with :w, or just let it be; whenever you save and close it will be substituted.

Again, this might not be the perfect solution for you. It does seems useful for me (I have <space> remapped to :w, in order to execute the substitution I just hit space).

Anyway thanks for the exercise! (:

Maybe, you could also check Tim Pope's Vim-abolish, a plugin that:

easily search for, substitute, and abbreviate multiple variants of a word

  • 1
    Good idea! Albeit BufNewFile will never find any text according to spec - it only fires when you open a brand-new file. Those are usually empty.
    – Wolfie
    Jan 8, 2017 at 0:11
  • Ahaha, thanks for pointing that out. Question edited. Should another event be added?
    – lsrdg
    Jan 8, 2017 at 14:37
  • Usually it's enough to pretty it up whenever you open or save the file. Technically saving it is enough if you never use other editors, but that's a bit outside scope.
    – Wolfie
    Jan 8, 2017 at 14:43

You'll have to analyse the context of the text you've typed to know what you want to insert. For instance, you could have a if abbreviation that detects there is a else just before.

BTW: don't remove abbreviations/mappings for a specific filetype context. Instead define your abbreviations only in a given context with the <buffer> specification. And define your abbreviation in filetype plugins (you could play with autocommands, but this doesn't scale).

What you're looking for is something like this:

inoreab <buffer> <expr> if repeat("\<bs>", strlen(matchstr(getline('.'), 'else\zs\s*if'))).'if'

Note that it doesn't take the current context into account (comments, strings), nor characters other than a space to end the abbreviation. Beside, we can do more like automatically adding semi-colons and jumping to the next line as I do in lh-brackets.

  • Interesting points, @LucHemitter. But could you provide an example of how autocommand would't scale? Thanks in advance. (:
    – lsrdg
    Jan 7, 2017 at 22:24
  • 1
    The more autocommands you have, the more cluttered your .vimrc file becomes. Beside, sharing your configuration would only become possible through copy-pasting. It works as long as you don't have many ft-specific definitions. For instance, for C alone, I have something like 1000 lines of code in my ftplugins -- many should be moved to autoload plugins eventually. I can't imagine doing the same thing only with autocommands. Jan 7, 2017 at 22:42
  • The idea of defining it globally is that I could then pick up new languages without having to generate a new ftplugin just to put the elif->else if abbrev in there
    – Wolfie
    Jan 8, 2017 at 0:09
  • We usually know the few languages we are working with. Beside with each we'll want different snippets (code blocks, semantics indenting, ...). PS: I've edited my answer to add a solution to your problem. Jan 8, 2017 at 0:55
  • I'm looking it over and this makes a lot of sense, other than repeat not being an editor command; it just multiplies strings for me. Also tested with -u none.
    – Wolfie
    Jan 8, 2017 at 1:32

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