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Die Spinne kümmerte sich um die Hütte.

means

The spider took care of the cottage.

But why do we need to add sich um? Why not just:

Die Spinne kümmerte die Hütte.

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    Because, uh, it would mean something else? It's like asking, why can't we say, in English, The spider took care the cottage, or even The spider took the cottage. – chirlu Aug 13 '15 at 9:33
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    What chirlu is trying to tell you is that asking "why isn't it like it is in English" is not a good approach to language learning. – Emanuel Aug 13 '15 at 9:48
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    The question "why isn't it" followed by an English sentence comes across naive and a bit narrow minded. Why should it be like the English sentence? Instead of asking "why" just ask "what is the function of this and that". That's something we can answer. But "why"... the answer to that is "that's how it is, is all." – Emanuel Aug 13 '15 at 9:55
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    Well, then just write "what's the function" next time rather than "why". A "why not like [English example]" makes me not want to answer the question. Also: Where do you ask "is sich um a fixed match"? No, it's not. Verbs come with a preposition and sometimes a reflexive. And sometimes the resulting combination is "sich um" – Emanuel Aug 13 '15 at 10:02
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    Then you must have assumed that I was an ignorant and arrogant American, Lol. – pxc3110 Aug 13 '15 at 10:08
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Well, in this case it's sich kümmern as kümmern is a reflexive verb AFAIK (and I'm not good at grammar but a German speaker).

And to express care about something/somebody (or more exactly to take care of something/someone), you need to use sich um etwas/jemanden kümmern.

In spoken German you could say:

Wen kümmert's?

or

Wen kümmert es?

(who cares) but this is the only situation that comes to my mind where kümmern is used without the reflexive form.

Some useful links:

Here you find some reflexive verbs in German:

  • Are there any other situations in which you need to add "sich um"? – pxc3110 Aug 13 '15 at 9:48
  • @pxc3110... there are plenty and there are thousands with "sich auf" and "sich vor" and so on. The "um" is the same as the English "of" in "take care of". – Emanuel Aug 13 '15 at 9:51
  • What role does "sich" play here? Maybe Germans like to be humurous and add "sich" without any reason? – pxc3110 Aug 13 '15 at 9:54
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    @pxc3110: Yes, Germans are world-renouned for their sense of humour. – chirlu Aug 13 '15 at 9:57
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    @pxc3110 "sich" just indicates that the verb is reflective. And you might consider this while conjugating "ich kümmere mich, du kümmerst dich, ... wir kümmern uns,..." It's just the same as myself/yourself for example i washed the car and i wash myself the last example is reflexive – Medi1Saif Aug 13 '15 at 10:17
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Consider:

Die Spinne kümmerte die Hütte.

Here, "die Spinne" would be in the accusative case, "die Hütte" in the nominative case, and it would mean that the hut troubles (or concerns) the spider. This is not the intended meaning.

Since nominative and accusative have identical forms here, it would also be possible that the roles are reversed and the hut is sad about the spider, but that seems even less likely.

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