Hal’, ‘Barang’ or ‘Benda’

‘Hal’, ‘Barang’ and ‘Benda’ mean (a) thing in Indonesian but they are substantially different to one another. Do you know the difference?

‘Hal’  is a noun that is used to refer to intangible things.

Intangible things that are often referred with ‘hal’ are thoughts, ideas or problems.

It is important to note that in Indonesian, the word ‘hal’ cannot be possessed. Which means Indonesian will never say “Ini hal dia” to say “This is his thing” when they talk about habit or preference. Instead, they will use words such as ‘kebiasaan’ (habit) or ‘kesukaan’ (favourite) to be more specific: “Ini kebiasaan dia” –> “This is his habit”.

Example 1:
Dia sedang memikirkan banyak hal.
He’s thinking about many things.

Example 2:
Ada banyak hal yang saya tidak tahu.
There are many things that I don’t know.

‘Barang’ is a noun that is used to refer to tangible things.

The word ‘barang’ can be used to refer to any thing as long as it is tangible. ‘Barang’ can be used to group things with different or same characteristics.

Among the three words that are discussed in this post, ‘barang’ is the only one that can be possessed. 

Example 3:
Itu barang saya.
That is my thing(s)

Example 4:
Dia suka barang mahal.
She likes expensive thing(s).

‘Benda’ is also used to refer to something tangible

but is more often translated as object rather than thing.

Because the essence of ‘benda’ is object, it is rarely used in the same way as ‘barang’ despite their similarity in role (to refer to something tangible). ‘Benda’ is more often used to group objects according to the same characteristic and rarely used to group things of different characteristics.

Similar to ‘hal’, the word ‘benda’ cannot be possessed. Which means Indonesian will never say “Ini benda dia” to say “This is his (thing)” when they talk about a particular object. Instead, they will use ‘barang’: “Ini barang dia” –> “This is his (thing)”.

Example 5:
Dilarang membawa benda tajam.
It’s prohibited to bring sharp object(s).

Example 6:
Benda tumpul juga berbahaya.
Blunt object(s) is also dangerous.

‘Hal’, ‘Barang’ & ‘Benda’ can be repeated to form plurals.

Repeating ‘hal’ or ‘barang’ will make the word plural. Note that the essence of each word (i.e. ‘hal’ for intangible things) will remain the same even in the plural form.

Example 7:

Kamu selalu memikirkan hal-hal sulit.

You always think about difficult stuffs (things)

Example 8:

Ini barang-barang saya.

These are my things.

Example 9:

Ada banyak benda-benda menarik di museum ini.

There are many interesting objects in this museum.

Final Note

Indonesians prefer to use a more specific noun whenever it is possible. So if using ‘mainan’ (toys) make the sentence clearer instead of just using ‘barang-barang’, please do so.

I hope this post helps you in understanding the difference between the three words.

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

Difference between ‘Hal’, ‘Barang’ and ‘Benda’

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    It is important to be aware of the distinction between base forms and derived forms, because most Indonesian dictionaries organise their head words, or main entries, according to the alphabetical order of the first letter in base forms, not derived forms. So in most dictionaries you won’t find the word

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