advanced, beginning, intermediate

All about يَشْرَب yashrab ‘to drink’

cup of tea
If you’re learner of Arabic, chances are you know the word يشرب yashrab ‘to drink’, even if you’re just a beginner. But there are some facts about this word you might not be aware of. Let’s a explore a bit, but first the basics.

The basics about yashrab

The present tense form of this verb (in the هو huwa form) is يَشْرَب yashrab, while the past tense form is شَرِبَ shariba. Here’s an example of a present tense sentence:

أَشْرَب كُوْبًا مِنْ الْشّاي.
’ashrab kuuban min ish-shaay.
more formal: ’ashrabu kuuban mina sh-shaay.
‘I’m drinking a cup of tea.’

And here’s the same sentence in the past tense:

شَرِبْتُ كُوْبًا مِنْ الْشّاي.
sharibtu kuuban min ish-shaay.
more formal: sharibtu kuuban mina sh-shaay.
‘I drank a cup of tea.’

If you’re more advanced, you may have learned about the maṣdar (verbal noun). The maṣdar of this verb is شُرْب shurb, illustrated in the following sentence:

أُحِبّ شُرْب الْشّاي.
’uḥibb shurb ish-shaay.
more formal: ’uḥibbu shurba sh-shaay.
‘I like drinking tea.’

More than just drinking

In English the word drink is basically reserved for beverages. But in Arabic, the term yashrab is used a bit more broadly. For one thing, it is generally the verb one uses when talking about eating soup (حِساء), even when you’re eating it out of a bowl and with a spoon (مِلْعَقة):

تَأْكُل الْبِنْت الحِساء بِمِلْعَقَة.
ta’kul il-bint il-ḥisaa’ bi milʕaqa.
more formal:ta’kulu l-bintu il-ḥisaa’a bi milʕaqa.
‘The girl is eating soup with a spoon.’

The second extended sense of yashrab is in the sense of smoking (a tobacco product). In this sense it is always used with an object:

الْسَّيِّد أحْمَد يَشْرَب شِيشة بَعد الْعَشاء.
’as-sayyid ’aḥmad yashrab shiisha baʕd il-ʕashaa’.
more formal:’as-sayyidu ’aḥmadu yashrabu shiishatan baʕda l-ʕashaa’.
‘Mr. Ahmad smokes a waterpipe after dinner.’

Without an object, one would use the word يُدَخِّن yudakhkhin:

الآنِسة فَوْزِيّة لا تُدَخِّن.
’al-’aanisa fawziyya laa tudakhkhin.
more formal:’al-’aanisatu fawziyyatu laa tudakhkhin.
‘Miss Fawzia doesn’t smoke.’

Cognates in English and Spanish

Words related to yashrab have been borrowed into some Western languages. One such case is the English word sherbet. Note that in British English, this refers to a type of beverage, which makes sense considering the meaning of the Arabic source word. The American sense of the word as a frozen dessert (elsewhere called sorbet) is a later development.

As for sorbet, that also comes from an Arabic word related to yashrab. The difference is that English has borrowed this word via French.

If you speak Spanish, you might know that jarabe means ‘syrup’. This comes from the Arabic word شَراب sharaab, which also means ‘syrup’.

Related words in Arabic

There are some related words in Arabic word noting.

First of all, the Arabic word for mustache is شارِب shaarib, literally ‘drinker’. Perhaps it’s called that because it gets into whatever you’re drinking and “drinks along with you.” That’s my guess, anyway. Here’s an example sentence:

أَخُو سَلْوى لَهُ شارِب كَبير جِدًّا.
’akhuu salwaa lahu shaarib kabiir jiddan.
more formal:’akhuu salwaa lahu shaaribun kabiirun jiddan.
‘Salwa’s brother has a very big mustache.’

Second, there’s a word that looks related, but probably isn’t. That is the word شورْبة shurba ‘soup’. From what I can tell, by looking up the Turkish cognate in a Turkish etymological dictionary, this word ultimately comes from Persian. In Arabic it is also spelled like a loanword, because otherwise we would never expect for that letter و waaw to show up. (The practice of spelling some short vowels in loanwords as if they were long is discussed in chapter 12 of my book Bite-Size Arabic). This is a very common word for ‘soup’. For example, ‘lentil soup’ is usually called شورْبة عَدْس shurbat ʕads. The native Arabic word for ‘soup’ or ‘broth’ is حِساء ḥisaa’, which we saw above.

Well, that’s all I have to say about yashrab for the moment. Bon appétit !


1 Comment

  1. Portuguese “xarope”, Catalán “xarop”, and Italian “sciroppo” still pronounce their borrowings of “sharaab” with an initial “sh” sound. I wish Spanish had never lost the “sh” sound, once represented by the letter “x”. We might still have Spanish “xarabe” which would be the only Romance borrowing to keep all three of the original Arabic consonant sounds.

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