What is the proper way to check if a particular variable is null? I use v:null as a special value to indicate something in a custom function's return value.

I have tried:

let l:v = v:null
echom l:v == v:null   " Works fine
let l:v = {'file': "something"}
echom l:v == v:null   " E735: Can only compare Dictionary with Dictionary

Note for searchers: null is sometimes called None, empty or nil.

  • 1
    I would try is instead of == (can't test rn).
    – Biggybi
    Dec 16, 2021 at 11:19
  • Correct, thank you. It would be great to specify in the answer also how to test 'is not' - it is a bit counterintuitive echom !(l:v is v:null) Dec 16, 2021 at 11:25
  • 1
    Actually, there's also isnot. I'm writing an answer.
    – Biggybi
    Dec 16, 2021 at 11:47
  • 1
    I almost always write is# even when it's not needed, and almost never write ==. Then I have less thinking to do, and I don't get weird conversions I don't want (strings and numbers). This is likely because Martin persuaded me with the article linked in the answer.
    – D. Ben Knoble
    Dec 16, 2021 at 16:32

1 Answer 1


The == operator will check for value.

You need to check identity. This is done with the is (and isnot) operator. Use is# to match the case, is? to ignore it.

For example:

if l:v is v:null
  echom "Null"
if l:v isnot v:null
  echom "Not null"

There is a list of operators at :h expr4. You can use e.g :h expr-== as well, or just :h ==.

I also recommend reading Effective VimScript from Martin Tournoij.

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