In vim, when I opened a file, I wanted to add two empty lines at the end of each current line. I used the following switch:


Apparently, this does not work, but what does work is:


I thought \r is a Windows feature? Would anyone be able to explain a bit more.


2 Answers 2


From vim docs on patterns:

\r matches <CR>

\n matches an end-of-line - When matching in a string instead of buffer text a literal newline character is matched.

Source: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/71417/why-is-r-a-newline-for-vim

  • Argh, I blindly copypasted the original answer from Stack Overflow. Wait for it... fixed! Sep 19, 2013 at 21:43
  • Yeah I saw this answer over there. Not sure where it was pointing to. If you figure it out I'd suggest editing the SO Q as well.
    – slm
    Sep 19, 2013 at 21:45
  • @slm I've fixed both my post and the post on SO :) Sep 19, 2013 at 21:50
  • 1
    Nice, I couldn't find that, good detective work!
    – slm
    Sep 19, 2013 at 21:52
  • 1
    Ok, so the takeaway for me is vim is weird. Gosh, i should've switched to emacs when i had the chance.
    – sandyp
    Sep 20, 2013 at 18:52

As @MartinvonWittich has stated you want to use \r. You can also use the keyboard combination:

Ctrl + v + M which typically get's display as ^M when typed.


Here's some additionally useful info on vim with respect to search and replace:

When searching:

  • ., *, \, [, ], ^, and $ are metacharacters.
  • +, ?, |, {, }, (, and ) must be escaped to use their special function.
  • \/ is / (use backslash + forward slash to search for forward slash)
  • \t is tab, \s is whitespace
  • \n is newline, \r is CR (carriage return = Ctrl-M = ^M)
  • \{#\} is used for repetition. /foo.\{2\} will match foo and the two following characters. The \ is not required on the closing } so /foo.\{2} will do the same thing.
  • \(foo\) makes a backreference to foo. Parenthesis without escapes are literally matched. Here the \ is required for the closing \).

When replacing:

  • \r is newline, \n is a null byte (0x00).
  • \& is ampersand (& is the text that matches the search pattern).
  • \1 inserts the text of the first backreference. \2 inserts the second backreference, and so on.


  • 1
    You're not really explaining why it's \r rather than \n. I think the answer boils down to “Vim is weird”, but there may be some now-forgotten historical reason. Sep 19, 2013 at 22:17
  • @Gilles - In researching this all information I can find seems circular as to why \r is a <CR>. It just is. But I would agree with your comment that it's weird.
    – slm
    Sep 19, 2013 at 22:54
  • The worst is that it's different when replacing. So to change <CR> to newlines you unintuitively use :%s/\r/\r/f
    – Quantum7
    Feb 13, 2019 at 15:48

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