I can't figure out how to go back to Normal mode after entering Terminal in Insert mode...

Escape just doesn't seem to work.

Any idea?

  • Why does this feel like How do I exit Vim? all over again? :)
    – icc97
    May 16 '21 at 10:46
  • @icc97 It doesn't really feel like it for me. really. I ask: hey Escape does not work as I think it should do in terminal mode. My question contains the words "Normal mode" "Teminal" "Insert mode" and the "Escape" key. The Vim meme related to exiting vim, is more targeted at pure beginners on one part. And total experts that challenges the most funny ways to do it on the other part. May 16 '21 at 13:49
  • Well it had me spamming various keys trying to guess :) Plus the only way I solved it was googling again to find this answer.
    – icc97
    May 16 '21 at 15:28

You are supposed to press CTRL+\CTRL+n.

See :help terminal-emulator for a mapping suggestion.

  • 2
    In Vim 8.2 it's :h Terminal-mode.
    – MikaelF
    Feb 20 '20 at 3:32
  • I guess it's not exactly NeoVim, but this also works for the Terminal mode added to vanilla VIM May 18 '20 at 20:26
  • or use <c-w><N> (uppercase "N" !!!) as mentioned below vi.stackexchange.com/a/27089/2239 by @Xuan. for me this is more vim-natural then <c-\>
    – MacMartin
    Sep 7 '20 at 12:27
  • What kind of "shortcut" is this? It's not natural at all! To remap to Esc use :tnoremap <Esc> <C-\><C-n> Apr 27 '21 at 17:25
  • 1
    @adelriosantiago Vim comes with very few "shortcuts". This is not one of them and no one is pretending it to be one but you.
    – romainl
    Apr 27 '21 at 17:34

The answer by @romainl is correct but I wanted to add a bit more info for anyone that may have stumbled on this from google like I did.

Directly from the docs we get this note:

Terminal mode has its own namespace for mappings, which is accessed with the "t" prefix. It's possible to use terminal mappings to customize interaction with the terminal. For example, here's how to map to exit terminal mode:

:tnoremap <Esc> <C-\><C-n>

With that knowledge you will most likely need to create some terminal mappings to stay inline with your current workflow (tab/window movement, etc.)

  • Hi, I set up that exact mapping, but I'm pressing <Esc> and nothing happens. Any idea why? Jun 2 '16 at 1:16
  • if you add it from Ex mode are the results the same? might be updating the wrong config file.. Jun 2 '16 at 1:29
  • 2
    Thanks. This helped me add my preferred mapping of tnoremap kj <C-\><C-n> Oct 30 '16 at 17:57
  • 2
    I made a slight adjustment to include the leader: tnoremap <leader><Esc> <C-\><C-n>. <Esc> is a very common key to use in the terminal, and by remapping just this you can't use <Esc> in the terminal any more. One bizarre scenario is if you end up in the inception world of starting up vim inside the vim terminal (it happens :)), but there's other examples such as running FZF on the terminal and you want to escape out of the search.
    – icc97
    May 16 '21 at 10:31

Exit & close

tnoremap <Esc> <C-\><C-n>:q!<CR>

In Vim 8, this also works:

tnoremap <ESC> <C-w>:q!<CR>
  • 1
    You don't need the N in <c-w>N, you can simply press : after <c-w>. And if you really want to close Vim with all its open buffers and windows, than :qa! might be the better choice. But one would loose all changes in that case. Sep 26 '18 at 14:33
  • 2
    Much better is tnoremap <Esc> <C-\><C-n>:bd!<CR>, which force closes the terminal buffer but not the entire Vim session. Jul 27 '20 at 17:48

According to vim documentation, there are two ways:

  1. CTRL-W N (note it's uppercase N)
  2. CTRL-\ CTRL-n

Use CTRL-W N (or 'termwinkey' N) to switch to Terminal-Normal mode. Now the contents of the terminal window is under control of Vim, the job output is suspended. CTRL-\ CTRL-N does the same.


If you are using Tmux, you may have installed some "vim-like" bindings to move around in the window panes which among other things grab the "C-\" before Vim has a chance to use it. If so, remove these from your .tmux.conf and restart tmux:

bind-key -n C-\ if-shell "$is_vim" "send-keys C-\\" "select-pane -l"
bind-key -T copy-mode-vi C-\ select-pane -l


You can just press Ctrl + D in terminal to close it. But if you don't want to close it, just want to switch windows you can do Ctrl-W w (if you have multiple panes you can specify to which you switch with the seccond letter (h,j,k,l), W just switches vim windows.

  • Ctrl + D is not an option as it exits the terminal. I just wanted to go back to Normal mode. On the contrary, your suggesting "changing window" is a nice option, since it is often the case I have another window pane. +1. Feb 6 '21 at 23:10

Well, I am surprised that no other commment mention it so maybe it's bad practice but I personnaly just typed exit and it worked.

  • 5
    Not bad practice, but you’ve misunderstood the Q i think. The idea is usually to keep the terminal running, but navigate it in normal mode for a brief moment. Your solution ends the process (and doesnt work for non-shell-like things), while the ctrl-\ ctrl-n allows me to navigate, yank, etc., and then press i and keep working in that terminal
    – D. Ben Knoble
    Jun 25 '20 at 12:29
  • 1
    Just to append to the answer, <Ctrl-D> feeds an end-of-file keycode, closing most shells, and by extension the terminal. Pressing two keys (with one hand) is quicker than 5 keys (with two hands). :)
    – mazunki
    Nov 6 '20 at 9:24

In my case (I use <leader>x, to close any buffer), as I have init.lua instead of init.vim my configs are:

-- map helper
local function map(mode, lhs, rhs, opts)
    local options = {noremap = true}
    if opts then options = vim.tbl_extend('force', options, opts) end
    vim.api.nvim_set_keymap(mode, lhs, rhs, options)

local autocmds = {
    packer = {
        { "BufWritePost", "plugins.lua", "PackerCompile" };
    terminal_job = {
        { "TermOpen", "*", [[tnoremap <buffer> <Esc> <c-\><c-n>]] };
        { "TermOpen", "*", [[tnoremap <buffer> <leader>x <c-\><c-n>:bd!<cr>]] };
        { "TermOpen", "*", [[tnoremap <expr> <A-r> '<c-\><c-n>"'.nr2char(getchar()).'pi' ]]};
        { "TermOpen", "*", "startinsert" };
        { "TermOpen", "*", "setlocal listchars= nonumber norelativenumber" };
    restore_cursor = {
        { 'BufRead', '*', [[call setpos(".", getpos("'\""))]] };
    save_shada = {
        {"VimLeave", "*", "wshada!"};
    resize_windows_proportionally = {
        { "VimResized", "*", ":wincmd =" };
    toggle_search_highlighting = {
        { "InsertEnter", "*", "setlocal nohlsearch" };
    lua_highlight = {
        { "TextYankPost", "*", [[silent! lua vim.highlight.on_yank() {higroup="IncSearch", timeout=400}]] };
    ansi_esc_log = {
        { "BufEnter", "*.log", ":AnsiEsc" };


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