I'm looking to map Ctrl-N to lbvhe in normal mode. This should visually select the word under the cursor, and works fine unless the word is at the beginning of a line.

Having investigated, I've found that – in a mapping – firing h when the cursor is in column 1 (which should simply do nothing) "traps" the cursor at the beginning of the line. Any following movement commands seem to be ignored; j, k, l, e, and w all do nothing.

My mapping works perfectly on any word preceded by whitespace or punctuation, but not words preceded by the previous line's EOL.

  • 1
    :h motion.txt will blow your mind.
    – romainl
    Aug 18, 2015 at 5:44

3 Answers 3


Use viw to visually select the current word. iw is a text object for the "inner" word.

I suggest you run vimtutor from the command line as well as look at :h quickref for more motions and text objects.

  • viw is the sequence I was looking for; thank-you.
    – Blieque
    Aug 18, 2015 at 15:46

From :h map-error :

Note that when an error is encountered (that causes an error message or beep)  
the rest of the mapping is not executed.  This is Vi-compatible.  

so when you hit h while on the first column (or l on the last one) the mapping fails.

As @peterrincker said you could use viw, which has almost the same effect as your command (if you're not on a word viw will not select anything while your command will select the previous word).

If you still want to use your mapping you could use:

:nnoremap <C-n> :silent! normal! lbvhe^M 

(^M being one character, use <C-v><CR> to enter it).

  • 1
    Thanks for the explanation of why the mapping fails. viw is indeed what I was looking for.
    – Blieque
    Aug 18, 2015 at 15:50

In addition to @Peter's answer I think you should read :h text-objects because it is a really powerful Vim's feature.

Peter already mentionned iw which selects a word and is pretty close to what you was trying to do. It is worth mentionning aw which allows to select a word + a leading or trailing space (that can be useful to change the place of a word in a sentence without leaving two whitespaces instead of only one).

There is also two other texts objects pretty similar: iW and aW which selects WORDS instead of words (see :h WORD to clarify the difference).

Finally note that text-objects can be used with all the basics commands not only v: diw will delete your word, caW will delete your WORD and a trailing space and switch to insert mode, yaw will yank the word and a trailing space, etc...

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