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Garbage cans would be picked up from the narrow alleys____ ran behind the rows of houses. (From an ACT English test)

Regarding the blank, which answer is more acceptable? 1. that; 2. since they?

Though the answer is " that, " which I can understand why; but why "since they" is not ok? I comprehend it as a cause adverbial clause and "they" refers to garbage cans.

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You are correct in determining the two clause types: with "that" it is a relative clause in the sentence, with "since they" an adverbial clause.

"Since they" is syntactically valid in this context but not semantically. That is to say, with "since they" the sentence is grammatical, but doesn't make much sense. If you want to make a I'd also put a comma before "since", but it is optional.

Garbage cans would be picked up from the narrow alleys, since they ran behind the rows of houses.

"Since" means because here. And this sentence tells you Because the alleys ran behind the rows of houses, garbage cans would be picked up from the narrow alleys. It doesn't make sense, does it? There is no causality as "since" seems to suggest. That is the reason of the two options you should choose "that".

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  • Can I regard that "they" is referring to "garbage cans,” I think that makes more sense. Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 2:13
  • @CharlieWang Barely. Garbage cans don't "run behind the rows of houses" unless on a slope or somebody kicks them. To me "ran behind the rows of houses" clearly points to "the narrow alleys."
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 2:15

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