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Expand region increases the selected region by semantic units. Just keep pressing the key until it selects what you want.

An example:

(setq alphabet-start "abc def")

With the cursor at the c, it starts by marking the entire word abc, then expand to the contents of the quotes abc def, then to the entire quote "abc def", then to the contents of the sexp setq alphabet-start "abc def" and finally to the entire sexp.

You can set it up like this:

(require 'expand-region)
(global-set-key (kbd "C-=") 'er/expand-region)

You can contract the region again with a negative prefix, if you expand too far.


You can watch an intro to expand-region at Emacs Rocks.

Language support

Expand region works fairly well with most languages, due to the general nature of the basic expansions:


However, most languages also will benefit from some specially crafted expansions. For instance, expand-region comes with these extra expansions for html-mode:


You can add your own expansions to the languages of your choice simply by creating a function that looks around point to see if it's inside or looking at the construct you want to mark, and if so - mark it.

There's plenty of examples to look at in these files.

After you make your function, add it to a buffer-local version of the er/try-expand-list.


Let's say you want expand-region to also mark paragraphs and pages in text-mode. Incidentally Emacs already comes with mark-paragraph and mark-page. To add it to the try-list, do this:

(defun er/add-text-mode-expansions ()
  (make-variable-buffer-local 'er/try-expand-list)
  (setq er/try-expand-list (append

(add-hook 'text-mode-hook 'er/add-text-mode-expansions)

Add that to its own file, and add it to the expand-region.el-file, where it says "Mode-specific expansions"

Warning: Badly written expansions might slow down expand-region dramatically. Remember to exit quickly before you start traversing the entire document looking for constructs to mark.


If you make some nice expansions for your favorite mode, it would be great if you opened a pull-request. The repo is at:

All changes must be accompanied by feature tests. They are written in Ecukes, a Cucumber for Emacs.

To fetch the test dependencies:

$ cd /path/to/expand-region
$ git submodule init
$ git submodule update

Run the tests with:

$ ./util/ecukes/ecukes features

If feature tests are missing for the mode you are changing, please make sure to add a set of basic tests around the functionality you're changing.


  • Josh Johnston contributed er/contract-region
  • Le Wang contributed consistent handling of the mark ring, expanding into pairs/quotes just left of the cursor, and general code clean-up.
  • Matt Briggs contributed expansions for ruby-mode.
  • Ivan Andrus contributed expansions for python-mode, text-mode, LaTeX-mode and nxml-mode.
  • Raimon Grau added support for when transient-mark-mode is off.
  • Gleb Peregud contributed expansions for erlang-mode.
  • fgeller and edmccard contributed better support for python and its multiple modes.



Copyright (C) 2011 Magnar Sveen

Author: Magnar Sveen Keywords: marking region

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program. If not, see