I often find myself doing an interactive search and replace for a string that may be either a whole word or a partial word, such as changing bar to jaz and also foo_bar_blah to foo_jaz_blah.

So I can't just do cw. But if I do for example c/_<CR> then I've lost bar as the search pattern. How can I change just the current instance of the search pattern and retain that search pattern?

  • 3
    c/_<cr> is perhaps better written ct_.
    – Mass
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 1:47

2 Answers 2


To change the current match (or next match, if the cursor is not on a match) use cgn or gnc. Alone, gn visually selects the match.


Here is the answer I finally found after sifting through the vimdoc site, specifically the chapter on patterns scrolling a few paragraphs below the section labeled *search-offset*

An example of how to search for matches with a pattern and change the match
with another word:
    /foo<CR>    find "foo"
    c//e        change until end of match
    bar<Esc>    type replacement
    //<CR>      go to start of next match
    c//e        change until end of match
    beep<Esc>   type another replacement

The important thing is NOT to use n to move to the next instance, because doing so will put you at the END of that instance. You must use //<CR> as shown. You can use . as usual if you just want to repeat the previous c//e change.

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