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I am having difficulty with finding the natural word order in the following passive construction:

What are people called who do a lot of unnecessary work?

What are called people who do a lot of unnecessary work?

What are people who do a lot of unnecessary work called?

If I change passive to active, the sentence becomes natural:

What do you call people who do a lot of unnecessary work?

What does one call people who do a lot of unnecessary work?

But what is the preferred/natural word order, if any, in such sentences, provided I want to stick with the passive?

I was unable to invent a more generic and to-the-point title. Please fell free to edit if you do.

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1  
It's what, not how in your examples. –  Matt Эллен Mar 21 '12 at 12:03
    
@MattЭллен: Thanks, edited. –  Armen Ծիրունյան Mar 21 '12 at 12:14

1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Your second sentence is not standard English. The other two are both fine, but the last one will become ever more problematic as you add words to the relative clause:

  • What are people who do a lot of unnecessary work and then end up having to start all over again called?

In such a case the first variation is much to be preferred.

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Wouldn't adding commas, which separate the relative clause, solve this problem? –  Asaf Mar 21 '12 at 12:44
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Unfortunately, this wouldn't work because the relative clause in this case is a defining clause. As such it should not be comma-delimited. Here is another sentence containing a defining clause (no commas): A person who cannot stop working is called a workaholic. Here is a sentence containing a non-defining clause (commas needed): My father, who is a workaholic, is called John. –  Shoe Mar 21 '12 at 13:26
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The second example is standard English, but for a different meaning: "What are X who do Y", with X = "called people" (those who have been called), and Y = "a lot of unnecessary work". –  jwpat7 Mar 21 '12 at 15:01
    
@jwpat7. Indeed, it hadn't occurred to me that called could be interpreted as an attributive adjective. –  Shoe Mar 21 '12 at 15:07

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