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Das Mädchen musste sich täglich auf die grosse Strasse bei einem Brunnen setzen und musste so viel spinnen, dass ihm das Blut aus den Fingern sprang.

What does exactly ihm mean here? I can completely understand the sentence, but that ihm seems to be redundant for me.

  • Which other languages do you speak? – user6191 Oct 28 '14 at 14:33
  • Russian is my native one. – Vadim Pushtaev Oct 28 '14 at 14:36
  • It's comparable to saying iemu 10 liet instead of on imeet 10 liat. – user6191 Oct 28 '14 at 14:39
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    It means that something happened to someone. Often the pronoun is not necessary, because it's clear from context to whom something happened, but sometimes that is not the case: Das Blut sprang aus den Fingern. (=Blood spilled from the fingers.) Das Blut sprang ihr aus den Fingern. (To her it happened that blood spilled from the fingers.) – user6191 Oct 28 '14 at 14:56
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    @Em1 ... you're wrong. "Das Blut sprang aus den Fingern" is a grammatical sentence, so a Dative "experiencer" is NOT needed for grammar. – Emanuel Oct 28 '14 at 16:40
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Ihm (personal pronoun, not possesive) means that it happened to the girl. Here's a similar example:

Das Blut sprang aus den Fingern. (Blood spilled from the fingers.)
Das Blut sprang ihr aus den Fingern. (To her it happened that blood spilled from the fingers.)

Not using the personal pronoun in the original sentence, leaves it technically undefined whos blood is spilling, although context strongly suggests that it's the girl's blood.

Comparable with the Latin Mihi nomen est (To me the name is) instead of Meus nomen est (My name is).


Old answer (misread question, left for trivia):

Ihm refers to das Mädchen, which is grammatically neuter, while in fact a female. Likewise one would say:

Das Mädchen, welches... (neuter pronoun, correct)
Das Mädchen, welche... (feminine pronoun, wrong)

But in your sentence, I think it's possible to use ihr, too:

Das Mädchen musste sich täglich auf die grosse Strasse bei einem Brunnen setzen und musste so viel spinnen, dass ihr das Blut aus den Fingern sprang.

Mostly because Mädchen isn't perceived as a diminuitive* anymore, but rather as the standard term for "girl". Interestingly, the female version with welche sounds completely wrong.

*Magd (=maid, female) → Mägdchen (diminuitive, always neuter) → Mädchen

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The "ihm" emphasizes that it's the girl whose fingers the blood comes out of. Or put more generally, that it's the girl to whom something happened. It would be understandable without the Dative but having it there is a general German fashion

Ich habe das Buch gelesen, das ich mir gekauft habe.
Der Dieb hat mir mein Handy geklaut.

The "mir" wouldn't really be needed in these sentences but they sound more idiomatic and alive with it in them.

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    (S)he could've bought the book for someone else. – user6191 Oct 28 '14 at 15:03
  • @Grantwalzer... technically yes, but I am pretty sure that in combination with the first part of the sentence, most people would assume that I bought it for me, if the recipient were missing entirely. Also, if the person who gets it is someone other than the buyer that has a significantly higher informational value which is why it's very likely that the person who gets it will be mentioned. That adds redundancy to "Mir" because if no person is mentioned,it's likely that there is none other than the buyer. Bottom line... theoretically you're right but that has little effect on language in use – Emanuel Oct 28 '14 at 16:38
  • compare also English that can get by without "for myself" just fine. The reason it's there in German is a matter of general style or preference, not content. – Emanuel Oct 28 '14 at 16:44
  • Agree with everything but the last sentence, since there's still a slight difference in meaning. – user6191 Oct 28 '14 at 20:17
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The verb springen requires the dative case and, as Mädchen is neuter, the pronoun ihm is used. Had the young lady been referred to as Frau then the pronoun ihr would have been appropriate.

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  • It seems just wrong. – Vadim Pushtaev Oct 29 '14 at 10:11
  • @VadimPushtaev: the answer is correct. Mädchen is neuter as has to be the pronoun replacing it (ihm). This is somewhat handled more liberal today, when it would also be possible to refer to Mädchen with a female pronoun but this would be gramatically wrong. The Grimms were very strict about this. – Takkat Oct 29 '14 at 10:43
  • I mean it's not about springen requires Dativ. – Vadim Pushtaev Oct 29 '14 at 10:54
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    How does springen require dative case? – user6191 Oct 29 '14 at 20:44

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