So I was doing some testing on some function I made, let's call it Test_mode,

"let g:Test_mode = 0 " commented to show that it works without defining it first
function! Test_mode()
if g:Test_mode == "off"
  nnoremap <buffer> <Down> <Down>
  nnoremap <buffer> <Up> <Up>
elseif g:Test_mode == "on"
  noremap <buffer><expr> <Down> Another_function()
  noremap <buffer><expr> <Up> Yet_another_function()

function! Togglemode(argument)
  redir >> event.log
  echo execute(a:argument)
" where the weird behavior occur
  redir END

noremap <buffer> <expr> c Togglemode("g:Test_mode")

Again, the above was just me playing around with some vimscript features.

Anyway, it seems to me like the execute + echo combination above make it so that the output is actually the Test_mode variable location (where/line where it's defined) and the content of the function of the same name...

I don't get why execute would do this since my initial attempt was to see if I could turn off/on a variable by passing it as an argument, but that resulted in seeing the function's content echoed on the screen + the variable using the same name.

By the way, this only happen if I use g:Test_mode, so if I do it without passing g: in front, it won't work. And yes, as mentioned in the commented code, it works the same even if I comment the part of the code where the variable is defined...

Is this normal behavior? a bug? I'm just curious if this is really a weird behavior.

P.S: I don't think I was clear enough when I said "it output the content of the function", so I'd like to clarify this point.

Basically, if I use the keybinding set above, which is c in normal mode, I get this as output:

"let g:Test_mode = 0 " commented to show that it works without defining it first
function! Test_mode()
if g:Test_mode == "off"
elseif g:Test_mode == "on"
noremap <buffer> <expr> c Togglemode("g:Test_mode")
Press ENTER or type command to continue

Which is literally the code of the function above. That's the weird behavior I mentioned above.

It would make sense if I had this as output if I was trying to capture whatever execute is executing, but that doesn't look like that to me. It kind of look like more of a string matching of the global variable I passed to execute.

  • 1
    I think you're mixing some stuff here. Togglemode("g:Test_mode"): you are calling your function with the string "g:Test_mode" which has nothing to do with the variable if you want to pass the variable as parameter remove the quotes. execute(a:argument): since the argument is a variable holding a boolean it doesn't make sense to execute it, what would make sense would be to have a string representing an actual command to execute.
    – statox
    Mar 15, 2022 at 13:13
  • 1
    Also you are using the same name for a variable and a function: First read :h variable-scope and remember that in most programming language it's usually a bad idea to use non unique names. I know these comments don't really answer your questions (and I'm sure someone else will) but still I think they are good advice to keep in mind.
    – statox
    Mar 15, 2022 at 13:14
  • ah, I never said any of what I shown here was good practices/good idea, since, I did said this was just me playing around or testing things :) also, please try the code I posted with the keybinding and you'll see what I meant by "it output the content of the function"...@statox Mar 15, 2022 at 13:15
  • also, I'm aware I should have tried to put it without quotes, but beside the fact it's beside the point of this question, I did mention I notice this weird behavior when I tried to toggle some global variable, so, if I try and pass it to the Togglemode function, it will only return the content of the variable, not the variable's name as string, which is what I tried to do (although that's as I mentioned, beside the point of this question) @statox Mar 15, 2022 at 13:18
  • feel free to check the question again -- I think I clarified what I meant better :D @statox Mar 15, 2022 at 13:27

1 Answer 1


The seemingly odd behavior you're seeing is because the execute() function actually runs its argument as an Ex command.

So when you pass it "g:Test_mode", it's actually running the :g or :global command, using : as a separator, then the Test_mode regex and finally an implicit :p to print the lines matching the regex (which is the default command if :g doesn't get a command explicitly.)

So the output you're seeing is that of:


Which you can also get with:


The execute() function is capturing that output as a string, then passing it to echo, so you end up seeing it that way. You'd get the same result if you used:

:echo execute('g/Test_mode/p')

If you want to pass the function a string containing the name of a variable and then get the contents of that variable, you can use eval() instead. For example, for the contents of g:Test_mode:

:echo eval("g:Test_mode")

If you're specifically interested in a global variable and have its name passed as a string, you can also use get() in the g: namespace:

:echo get(g:, 'Test_mode')

In that case, you can also pass get() a third argument to use in case g:Test_mode is not actually defined.

  • 1
    Thanks a lot! I thought this was too odd of an issue to be answered/known :) I wonder, is this even documented in some way? Mar 16, 2022 at 13:26
  • 1
    nevermind, it's documented (looked into the inline links on your answer). Cheers Mar 16, 2022 at 13:27

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