What are the truthy and falsey values in classic vimscript (not vim9script)?

What is the canonical list, and where do I find it in :help?




  • Non-0 Numbers (any integer but 0)
  • Strings that convert to a non-zero number
    • All strings starting with a digit which is not '0'
    • Numbers not starting with '0', eg: -123 0x10 0177 0o177 0b1011


  • 0 in integer form only -- float 0.0 gives E805: Using a Float as a Number
  • v:false, v:none and v:null
  • Any string that evaluates as 0 when 0 is added to it, eg: 'foo', '0.9'(!) and even '+1'(!!!)


:help Boolean says:

For boolean operators Numbers are used. Zero is FALSE, non-zero is TRUE. You can also use v:false and v:true.

Note the emphasis on Numbers. Strings can be converted to Numbers. Floats can't.

But that's not the complete story on the false side.

Neovim doesn't have a help index for Specials, but vim's :help Specials says:

v:false, v:true, v:none and v:null.

These were introduced in Patch 7.4.1154.

Reading the help on these, we find that when used as Numbers, they respectively evaluate to:

      0,       1,      0,   and    0

To test if a string is truthy or not, add the Number 0 to it, eg:

:if '-1' + 0 | echo "true" | else | echo "false" | endif

The following strings all convert to the number 0 and are thus false:

  • '0'
  • '0.9'
  • ''
  • 'non-number'
  • '+1' (!!!)

Note especially last one:

  • '-1' converts to -1 (truthy)
  • '+1' converts to 0 (falsey)

Any string starting with a digit that is not 0 is true. '0.9' is false

:help Boolean says:

If the string starts with a non-zero number it means TRUE

But note the following:

  • Truthy: '0xff' and '0777' (Non-0 integers)
  • Falsey: 0.9 (Float converts to integer 0)
  • Great reference. v:true is relatively new, so many plugins still use 0/1, and the docs often say things in terms of 0/1. New code really should use v:true/v:false unless it absolutely needs the type-punning here
    – D. Ben Knoble
    Dec 22 '21 at 16:48
  • 2
    This actually gets even more confusing... Because Vim also uses a different concept of "truthy" and "falsy" (which it actually calls by these names) that is only used for the ?? operator. See :help truthy and :help ??.
    – filbranden
    Dec 22 '21 at 19:08

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