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The temple and its patrons were destroyed by the fire.

The temple and the patrons inside were destroyed by the fire.

Are these two sentences synonymous? I am wondering if you can use "its" to denote that the patrons were inside the temple and had no other connection to the temple aside the fact they were inside of it.

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No, the "its" sentence states that the people patronize that temple. They are some or all of the temples patronage. (note: patronize has two very different meanings)

In the second sentence, it is possible that the patrons are not patrons of the temple, but only if the reader will already know that they were the patrons of some other establishment, such as:

The patrons of the restaurant all walked across the street when it closed. Some went to a bookstore, and some went to a temple. The temple and the patrons inside were destroyed by the fire.

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