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In the national English language test (equivalent to A-levels), exam sitters were supposed to fill the spaces in the sentences with a word of some grammatical function.

One such sentence read: 'Some major junctions even have a special set of traffic lights for cyclists, allowing ___ a head start ahead of motorists.'

The key of the test says the correct answer is 'them'. However, what I did choose was 'for'. Is 'allow for something' a reasonable construction in this case?

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    Them is certainly grammatical, and so is for. They're different structures, of course. But the person who made up the question obviously had only one in mind and didn't describe it well enough to get the answer they wanted. Too bad. But that's the way standardized English tests work; they're ceremonies, not authorities. – John Lawler Mar 19 '15 at 16:24
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...allowing for a head start ahead of motorists sounds a little clumsy.

...allowing them a head start ahead of motorists seems more clear to the reader.

It's a grey area, but when you listen to the cadence of the sentence it makes sense. Sometimes grammatical questions have a "choose the best answer" component this is difficult to answer without using this type of logic.

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