Is there a way to substitute a pattern only if it occurs inside the brace pair that the cursor is on?

For instance, if I have the text

int bar()

int foo()
  char bar;

  bar = 'a';

I can change all instances of bar to baz in the second brace pair using line numbers, e.g. :7,11s/bar/baz/g. Is it possible to do this without the line numbers, only having the cursor on one of the braces?


The version of Vi I have is 3.10, which doesn't appear to have visual mode

1 Answer 1


First Solution

This requires some advanced cmdline-range magic to work. Here is what I have come up with:


Now, to break it down:

  • ?{? - Searches backwards for the first line containing a {. You can use any regex in the place of { if you need to match more specific cases.
  • , - This takes the lines in front of and in back of it, and matches all lines in between.
  • /}/ - Searches forwards for the first line containing a }. Once again, this could be any regex to match your specific needs.
  • s=bar=baz=g - This is just a normal search and replace statement, using = as the seperator.

Note that you must have the cursor between the two parentheses, otherwise it will not work. These two help pages are very useful on the subject of cmdline-ranges:

:help 10.3
:help cmdline-ranges

Second Solution

There is also a slightly simpler way of doing it as well. These are the keys you have to press:


Here is how this works:

  • vi{ - Visually select an "inner block". See :help text-objects for more on this.
  • : - Key to start a command as usual, however when in visual select mode, vim automatically inserts markers for the beginning and ending of the selection. Like so: :'<,'> This is more special cmdline-range syntax, where ' means the line at marker <, which in this case is the marker which is always set to the beginning of the visual selection.
  • s/bar/baz/g - Normal substitution command.
  • The first solution works great. The second solution didn't work for me, probably because the version of vi I am using is 3.10
    – horns
    Mar 27, 2015 at 2:42
  • After using the first solution here some, I realized that it flops when there are inner pairs of brackets.
    – horns
    Mar 27, 2015 at 19:28
  • Indeed it does. It is a very simple solution, so I figured there would be some disadvantage to it. I'll see what I can do to make it work, but it might end up being extremely complex. Mar 27, 2015 at 19:32

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