I accidentally stumbled on a solution for a problem I had: I wanted to get an overview over all occurrances of the word under the cursor, after I used # to find them individually.

For some reason I guessed the command :g % and it did what I wanted. But I could not find an explanation of this, neither by reading :help :g nor :help g nor :help % nor :help pattern nor :help cword.

I experimented some more with this and I figured out

  • that it had nothing to do with the cursor position and it would just repeat the last search,
  • that I could replace the % with any single character (or at least, all that I tried worked), but there had to be one, and there had to be at least one space between :g and that character.

For example, :g a, :g x, :g #, :g c all worked.

Typing one more character would use this as a start of a new search apparently.

Where can I find the documentation for this invocation? :help :g shows :g/{pattern}/[cmd] and does say that the / can be replaced by a different character, so I figured it could be a space, but then the syntax should be


and I understand that the default cmd is :p which prints the matching lines, but I still don't understand why the last search pattern is inserted automatically and what the relevance of that trailing other character (%, a, x above) is.

I'm using Vim 8.2.2434.

1 Answer 1


The way I understand it:

:g[global] /{pattern}/ [cmd]
  1. You can have spaces between the global keyword and the pattern separator
  2. The pattern separator can be any non alphanumeric character (except \, | or ")
  3. The ending pattern separator is optional if not cmd is to be specified
  4. If the pattern is empty the last pattern (/ register) is used
  5. If the cmd is not specified p (print) is used

With these rules :g# is equivalent to :g##p or :g//p or :g#Ctrl-r/#p

  • Remark: on Vim 8.2 and later :g a is not working with Vim 8.1 it is working. Feb 21, 2023 at 13:00

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