I've just started learning German and I came across these words. Is there any difference between them or can they be used interchangeably?

closed as off-topic by chirlu, Burki, Carsten S, 0x6d64, user unknown Sep 4 '15 at 13:28

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kostenlos always belongs to a charge or something you have to pay.

frei is a general version of free, that isn't bound to payment.

Furthermore there is

kostenfrei which is the same as kostenlos


Well, let me google that for you. Using Google Translate I obtain the following dictionary entries for kostenlos:

free, free of charge.

For frei I get

free, loose, liberal, open, clear, available, vacant, empty, independent, bare, unobstructed.

I think that from this difference one can deduce that they cannot be used interchangeably.


Kostenlos bezieht sich immer auf Kosten. Wenn etwas kostenlos ist, kann man eine Sache/Dienstleistung erhalten ohne dafür zu bezahlen.

Frei wird nicht direkt im Zusammenhang mit Kosten verwendet. Es gibt viele verschiedene Zusammenhänge, in denen das Wort "frei" verwendet werden kann. Die direkten Übersetzungen kannst du der Antwort von Carsten S entnehmen.


Das Angebot ist kostenlos.

Die Straße ist frei.
Ich fühle mich frei.
Ist das Zimmer frei?

  • 1
    Eintritt ist frei. – gnasher729 Sep 8 '15 at 20:51

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