I followed the tutorial verbatim and I am unable to yank earlier kills. I have looked online for support, but noone else seems to have this problem.

Kill a line, move around, kill another line. Then do C-y to get back the second killed line. Then do M-y and it will be replaced by the first killed line. Do more M-y's and see what you get. Keep doing them until the second kill line comes back, and then a few more. If you like, you can try giving M-y positive and negative arguments.

When I do C-y, I get back the last killed line. "Mark Set" shows up in the "command window"(where we type commands) after I do C-y. When I follow it up with M-y, nothing happens.


My question is where do I start looking for the issues? Am I doing something wrong, or is the documentation not right? Could it be the version I have installed? Please help. Thanks.

computer specs:

  • Emacs 24.3.1
  • Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (almost up-to-date)


I am a noob, going through line by line of the emacs tutorial to get the basics of emacs.

  • Reproduce the effect with emacs -Q (the command line option -Q prevents emacs from loading the personal init files). Cite here the exact emacs version that you get with M-x emacs-version. That is also a test whether you correctly interpret what key sequences like M-x or M-y mean (hold Alt and press x).
    – Tobias
    Dec 19, 2017 at 8:11
  • 2
    Thanks for your help. I was trying to do what you were saying, when I realized M-x and M-y are my ubuntu shortcuts for some things. I checked how to override global shortcuts when emacs is opened, but it seems quite involved for now. I have changed the ubuntu shorcuts to something else for now. Can you tell me how I should proceed with this thread? Answer it or delete it? or mark as duplicate?
    – Pandian Le
    Dec 19, 2017 at 9:03
  • 1
    Judging from the second off-topic item in the Section Asking of the help center the question is off-topic and should therefore be closed. Note, that the magit example on the referenced page is also an effect seen in emacs which turns out to be inflicted by a wrong configuration of git. But as mentioned there it is tricky. I will cast a closing-vote to draw the attention of moderators which will also state their opinion about this issue.
    – Tobias
    Dec 19, 2017 at 9:16

1 Answer 1


Welcome! If you have only one line in the storage for kill (aka kill-ring), then nothing will happen on M-y. Let's try an exercise to make this more visible:

  1. Switch to the *scratch* buffer and add the following:

    Line one
    Line two
    Line three
  2. Go back to the first line and hit C-k then three times. (If we just hit C-k six times, it will be considered a single kill.)

  3. Type M-x describe-variable RET kill-ring RET

I see the following (ignoring the documentation at the start):

Value: (#("Line three" 0 4
    (fontified t)
    4 10
    (fontified t))
  #("Line two" 0 4
    (fontified t)
    4 8
    (fontified t))
  #("Line one" 0 4
    (fontified t)
    4 8
    (fontified t)))

This shows the content of the kill-ring. After C-y, M-y iterates over the contents of this variable.

  • Thank you for your comment. I wrote a comment earlier. which was: my global keyboard shortcuts coincided with emacs shortcuts. Once I changed them everything works as expected. Overriding global shortcuts seems quite involved so I am not checking it out now.
    – Pandian Le
    Dec 19, 2017 at 11:40

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