I would like to perform the following,

  1. Visually select some text that spans multiple lines and occurs multiple times in the file: V
  2. Yank to buffer: y
  3. Perform substitute with text from buffer: (:%s,<Ctrl-r> 0,new text,g)


Given the following example:

  name: redis
  version: 5.0
  name: redis

I want to change all occurrences of metadata.

Output: :%s,metadata:^M name: redis,some other text,g

Error: E486: Pattern not found: metadata:^M name: redis

2 Answers 2


You can use vim-visual-multi. Use multi line mode with \\M. Select all occurrences with \\A and do c to change.

Other people will tell you the vim way.

You can also use %s/pattern\n nextline/something/ (or ^v<enter> instead of \n - would surely work ).

  • Ctrl-V + Enter doesn't work instead of \n: you end up with the same substitution that's described in the question.
    – Rich
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 8:46
  • So it is not clear why the original substitution didn't work. Unix vs windows file format?
    – eyal karni
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 23:03
  • 1
    No. When you yank a newline, it's stored in the yank register as a NL (regardless of the file format--I think this is how it's also stored in memory). But you cannot enter NL characters into the command-line: if you press <Enter> it runs the command; if you type Ctrl-V Ctrl-J it enters a NUL instead (See :help NL-used-for-Nul), and if you insert the contents of a register with <C-R>, it converts the NL characters into CR characters. So when you search, instead of looking for multiple lines, it's looking for single lines that contain CR characters.
    – Rich
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 8:52

The problem is that the characters used to represent newlines in a buffer are not the same as those needed to match a newline in a regular expression. As eyal kami suggests, you can fix this by manually replacing the Ctrl-M ^M characters in your substitution with \n, or, perhaps cleaner, you could write a function to do both steps 2 and 3 for you:

function! MultiLineSubstitute() abort
  let expression = substitute(@0, "\<C-J>", '\\n', 'g')
  execute '%s,'.expression.','.input("Replacement: ")

vnoremap <F1> :<C-U>call MultiLineSubstitute()<CR>

Note however that new lines are far from the only character that has a different meaning in a regular expression. You might want to look into the very nomagic atom (:help /\V) and the escape() function to work around this.

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