What is the intended use case for the s command in normal mode?

I've been looking at it for some time, inadvertently pressing s, but can't find any use case that would make sense for me.

3 Answers 3


I don't think there's a more specific use mode than to delete the character under the cursor and enter insert mode. By using a number modifier you can delete several characters before entering insert mode. E.g. if you want to change foobar into fubar, then I would set to cursor to f, and press 3sfu. Of course, you don't need to use s, you could also do e.g. ctbu. I guess you can always get away without using s. That being said, I use s very often.

  • 1
    I use it to avoid "delete something then enter insert" separately. It's nice to be able to hit v for highlight, then 4e to highlight 4 words, then hit s and start typing.
    – user859
    Mar 29, 2017 at 10:43
  • 1
    I don't use s that way because I don't like moving too often that far up the keyboard for editing stuff. I would use c for that. That being said, I was wondering if there's some other intended use case. It just fells against the vim way I got used to.
    – Dumitru
    Mar 29, 2017 at 11:12
  • 1
    @Dumitru Can you touch type numbers? Cause that's the only reason I see to "don't like moving too ofthen that far up the keyboard". Mar 30, 2017 at 21:32
  • @user1685095, Yeah, I can. What do you mean with the only reason? The inability or the ability?
    – Dumitru
    Mar 30, 2017 at 21:50
  • @Dumitru Inability. Mar 30, 2017 at 21:53

s is short for cl which is mentioned in help s:

["x]s                   Delete [count] characters [into register x] and start
                        insert (s stands for Substitute).  Synonym for "cl"
                        (not linewise).

I've mapped s to my own command and haven't missed the default 'substitute' so far.


In normal mode:

  • s same as cl
  • S same as cc

In visual mode:

  • s same as c
  • S is remapped by vim-surround to a (very useful) surround operator.

I don't see any clear advantage of having s for substitute when there is already a c for change. I'm using nmap s ys in my init.vim (or .vimrc) to use s as a surround operator instead.

  • Welcome to Vi and Vim! One use for s is to replace a single character with more characters (since r only works with one character replacements). That said, I rarely use it…
    – D. Ben Knoble
    Oct 11, 2021 at 18:49

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