‘Gratis’ or ‘Bebas’

Indonesian has a number of adjectives that mean free. The most commonly used adjectives are ‘gratis’ and ‘bebas’.

How are they different?


‘Gratis’ came from the same word in Latin that is also used in English and many other languages. This adjective is used to describe things/nouns that are free (of charge).


Example 1:

Buku ini gratis.

This book is free (of charge).

Example 2:

Saya suka makanan gratis.

I like free food.


‘Bebas’ is another adjective that means free in Indonesian. It indicates the existence of freedom to perform a particular action or freedom from things that constrain.


Example 3:

Di Facebook saya bebas berbicara.

In Facebook I can speak freely.

(Freedom to perform a particular action – to speak)

Example 4:

Besok kalian boleh memakai pakaian bebas.

Tomorrow you’re free to choose what to wear.

(Freedom to perform a particular action – to choose)

Example 5:

Saya sudah bebas dari ujian. Hore!

I’m already free from exams. Hooray!

(Freedom from things that constrain – exams)


Note that bebas can also be used to indicate prohibition of certain things in a particular area.


Example 6:

Kawasan bebas rokok.

Smoke-free area.

Remember that this does not mean that you’re free to smoke in that area.

Rather, it is imperative that the area should be free from smoking.

Example 7:

Kawasan bebas mobil.

Car-free area.

Remember that this does not mean that you’re free to drive a car in that area.

Rather, it is imperative that the area should be free from cars.


Final Note


Now that you have understood difference between ‘gratis’ and ‘bebas’, how do we say the following phrase in Indonesian?

‘Now I am free!’

If you happen to use the word ‘gratis’ for this, you are implying that you can be purchased for free – which I believe is not what you want to say.

Rather, you should say:

“Sekarang saya sudah bebas!”

Assuming that such phrase can only be said when you have been freed from constrain(s),

the word ‘sudah’ is necessary in the Indonesian version.

I hope you find the explanation above useful.

Have a question regarding this topic? Post your question below!

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