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Unsere Schritte klingen ihnen zu einsam durch die Gassen.
(Our footsteps in the streets sound too lonely to them.)

I take it that the translation of to them is ihnen in German. How does the construct work? Does klingen take the dative? Why is there an omission of zu, like zu ihnen? Is it not possible to say the following?

Unsere Schritte klingen zu ihnen zu einsam …

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klingen does not necessarily take the dative. The background is more general:

Verbs of sensing (like "klingen, sehen, hören, riechen") take the dative for the recepient of the sensing.

Die Schritte klingen ihnen zu einsam

Das Kleid sieht mir aber teuer aus

Der Ausflug hörte sich ihm zu gefährlich an

Das roch ihnen zu stark nach Betrug

This is BTW the same in English:

This sounded too lonely to him

The "zu" (or "to") is not needed (or rather: wrong) in German, because there is still an alive dative in this language, while English needs a preposition ("to") to signal this case.

This is one of the fundamental differences between the two Germanic languages English and German: English mainly drives relationships by prepositions, German by cases (and prepositions).

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