Just like the svn update command, svn merge applies changes to your working copy. And therefore it’s also capable of creating conflicts. The conflicts produced by svn merge, however, are sometimes different, and this section explains those differences.
To begin with, assume that your working copy has no local edits. When you svn update to a particular revision, the changes sent by the server will always apply “cleanly” to your working copy. The server produces the delta by comparing two trees: a virtual snapshot of your working copy, and the revision tree you’re interested in. Because the left hand side of the comparison is exactly equal to what you already have, the delta is guaranteed to correctly convert your working copy into the righthand tree.
But svn merge has no such guarantees and can be much more chaotic: the advanced user can ask the server to compare any two trees at all, even ones that are unrelated to the working copy! This means there’s large potential for human error. Users will sometimes compare the wrong two trees, creating a delta that doesn’t apply cleanly. svn merge will do its best to apply as much of the delta as possible, but some parts may be impossible. Just as the Unix patch command sometimes complains about “failed hunks,” svn merge will similarly complain about “skipped targets”:
$ svn merge -r 1288:1351 http://svn.example.com/repos/branch U foo.c U bar.c Skipped missing target: 'baz.c' U glub.c U sputter.h Conflict discovered in ...