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What is the grammatical function of 'since' in the following sentence?

Four years had passed since his father died.

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In this sentence since is used as a subordinating conjunction. It links together a main clause and a subordinate clause (an adverbial subordinate clause in this case).

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From dictionary.com:

adverb 1.from then till now (often preceded by ever ): He was elected in 1978 and has been president ever since.

2.between a particular past time and the present; subsequently: She at first refused, but has since consented.

3.ago; before now: long since.

preposition 4.continuously from or counting from: It has been warm since noon.

5.between a past time or event and the present: There have been many changes since the war.

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It's serving as a preposition. They state a relationship in space or time, literally or figuratively, and in this case it is in time and literal.

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