I'm trying to write a regex that matches all spaces except those enclosed in quotes. I found solutions on the Internet for various programming languages, for example, here, but I am having trouble converting this to Vim regex:

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    Welcome to Vi and Vim! Please edit to include the specific regular expression you're having trouble translating (and its flavor, if you know it). Having links is a great bonus, but we want the question to stand on its own even if the links die.
    – D. Ben Knoble
    Jul 15, 2021 at 15:41
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    Thank you! I had a link to regex101 before, but it doesn't seem to be very noticeable, I duplicated the regex in the post too.
    – Shatur95
    Jul 15, 2021 at 17:17
  • the regex is not Vim Regex! Jul 15, 2021 at 19:47
  • @ChristianBrabandt, I know, it's ECMA Script Regex. And I need to convert it to Vim Regex :)
    – Shatur95
    Jul 15, 2021 at 19:49

1 Answer 1


The positive look-ahead (?= is \@= in Vim regex, non-capturing groups are \%(\) and capturing-groups are \(\). That would make your pattern:


There is a nice summary for comparing Perl compatible patterns with Vims in the help :h perl-patterns:

Capability in Vimspeak in Perlspeak
force case insensitivity \c (?i)
force case sensitivity \C (?-i)
backref-less grouping \%(atom\) (?:atom)
conservative quantifiers \{-n,m} *?, +?, ??, {}?
0-width match atom\@= (?=atom)
0-width non-match atom\@! (?!atom)
0-width preceding match atom\@<= (?<=atom)
0-width preceding non-match atom\@<! (?<!atom)
match without retry atom\@> (?>atom)

That helps translating patterns.

  • Thank you a lot! Did not know about :h perl-patterns:! I have a related question. If I put this into the following function: echo split('text "text"', "\\s\\%(\\%([^'\"`]*\\(['\"`]\\)[^'\"`]*\\1\\)*[^'\"`]*$\\)\\@="), I will have the following results: ['text', '"text"'] (double quotes captured). But if I use this expression in search (/), then the quotes are not captured. Can I avoid quotes capturing?
    – Shatur95
    Jul 15, 2021 at 21:45
  • you are splitting on that regex. That means, all non-matches will be kept in your list. Jul 16, 2021 at 6:39

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