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Improving on Vim's native sentence text object and motion


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Improving on Vim's native sentence text object and motion

Detecting sentences can be tricky, esp. when the words and punctuation of a sentence are interspersed with abbreviations, “quotations,” (parentheses), [brackets], the __markup__ from **lightweight** markup languages, and hard

While Vim’s native sentence text object is quite capable, its behavior remains hard-coded and cannot be extended. Thus arises the need for a specialized text object offered by this plugin.

Features of this plugin:

  • Sophisticated sentence text object, supporting selection, motion, and jump
  • Implemented with regular expressions via the vim-textobj-user plugin
  • Supports sentences containing common abbreviations (configurable)
  • Support for sentences containing typographical characters, incl. quotes, em dash, etc.
  • Support for lightweight markup languages (markdown, e.g.)
  • Buffer scoped configuration


You can install using your favorite Vim package manager. (E.g., Pathogen, Vundle, or Plug.) If you are using a recent version of vim or neovim, you can also use native package support. (See :help packages.)

This plugin has an essential dependency that you will need to install:


Because prose benefits more than code from a sentence text object, the behavior of this plugin can be configured per file type. For example, to enable sentence in markdown and textile files, place in your .vimrc:

set nocompatible            " this may already be in your .vimrc
filetype plugin indent on   " ...and this too

augroup textobj_sentence
  autocmd FileType markdown call textobj#sentence#init()
  autocmd FileType textile call textobj#sentence#init()
augroup END

Decimal numbers and abbreviations

Though the period . glyph/character will normally terminate a sentence, it also has other uses. For example, the same glyph is used in abbreviations like ‘M.D.’ for Medical Doctor. These abbreviations, however, should be tolerated when detecting the boundaries of a sentence. The following should be considered one text object, rather than four:

Magnum, P.I. lives at Robin’s Nest, located at 11435 18th Ave., Oahu, HI.

This plugin detects decimal numbers and common abbreviations. By default, the following abbreviations will be recognized:

  let g:textobj#sentence#abbreviations = [
    \ '[ABCDIMPSUabcdegimpsv]',
    \ 'l[ab]', '[eRr]d', 'Ph', '[Ccp]l', '[Lli]n', '[cn]o',
    \ '[Oe]p', '[DJMSh]r', '[MVv]s', '[CFMPScfpw]t',
    \ 'alt', '[Ee]tc', 'div', 'es[pt]', '[Ll]td', 'min',
    \ '[MD]rs', '[Aa]pt', '[Aa]ve?', '[Ss]tr?',
    \ '[Aa]ssn', '[Bb]lvd', '[Dd]ept', 'incl', 'Inst', 'Prof', 'Univ',
    \ ]

Note that you can override/modify the above defaults in your .vimrc, but be sure to include the declaration before your call to textobj#sentence#init().

Motion commands

Motion commands on text objects are a powerful feature of Vim.

This plugin overrides Vim’s native commands for sentence selection:

  • as - select ‘around’ sentence with trailing whitespace

  • is - select ‘inside’ sentence without trailing whitespace

  • ( - move to start of previous sentence

  • ) - move to start of next sentence

This plugin adds:

  • g) - jump to end of current sentence
  • g( - jump to end of previous sentence

You can manipulate text just as with Vim’s original as and is commands, such as cis for change, vas for visual selection, das for deletion, yas for yanking to clipboard, etc.. Note that count isn’t supported at present (due to limitations of the underlying vim-textobj-user) but repeat with . does work.

If you prefer to retain the native commands, you can assign other key mappings via your .vimrc:

let g:textobj#sentence#select = 's'
let g:textobj#sentence#move_p = '('
let g:textobj#sentence#move_n = ')'

See also

If you find this plugin useful, check out these others originally by @reedes:

Future development

If you’ve spotted a problem or have an idea on improving this plugin, please post it to the GitHub project issue page.