When I first started learning Japanese, I learned that 飲む meant "drink" and 食べる meant "eat". These translations seemed to work for a while, but then I learned that you could 飲む things that you can't drink, like 息, タバコ, or 錠剤.
While going through various definitions for 飲む, I found one in particular that caught my eye (which I've abridged here, taken from the 集英社国語辞典):
It got me thinking: is the fundamental difference between 飲む and 食べる whether you chew before you swallow? Can I express these words as:
- 飲む "to pass something through the mouth and into the body without chewing"
- 食べる "to pass something through the mouth and into the body with chewing"
Or is there a better way to explain the difference?