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Could you tell me which one is correct? In order to get the answer, I asked a native about it, but, unfortunately, they weren't able to give me a definitive answer, so I decided it was worth posting this question here for you to answer it.

  1. Who's going to answer the Chemistry teacher's, who, I know, is beloved by Polinna, question?
  1. Who's going to answer the Chemistry teacher's question, who, I know, is beloved by Polina?
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    Neither is particularly good. I'd reword, although precisely how would depend on whether it was written or spoken.
    – Stuart F
    Mar 7, 2023 at 6:29
  • Who's going to answer the question that the chemistry teacher — whom I know Polinna loves — asked? Mar 8, 2023 at 3:56
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    Why has this basic question, genuinely about English syntax been closed? It's not like we get many of them. Mar 8, 2023 at 16:39
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    @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. I close-voted because I could discern no real research effort. (I'm discounting the vague "I asked a native", for multiple reasons.) This is a site for relatively advanced English issues, and to just throw two sentences out there and ask "which one is correct" is, IMO, inadequate. Even A LITTLE effort probably would have been enough for me not to CV. Mar 9, 2023 at 3:53
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    The two statements seem disparate enough to virtually demand two separate sentences, so I'd consider 'which one is correct?' unreasonable here. (1') << Who's going to answer the Chemistry teacher's, who, I know, is an expert in this field, question? >> doesn't have the same problem. // I've never met even a recommendation by a style guide addressing a relative clause inserted between a possessive and its corresponding NP, but I'd say it's unacceptable as being outlandish, and mark both (1') and (2') wrong. There are plenty of ways to rephrase into a natural-sounding sentence or two. Apr 8, 2023 at 10:29

2 Answers 2

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Here, the chemistry teacher (I wouldn't capitalize chemistry here) has to be the antecedent of the supplementary relative clause who I know is beloved by Polina (I wouldn't use commas around I know), so it's best if we use of instead of the apostrophe and change the word order so we can put the chemistry teacher at the end of the main clause.

That is, we can use the question of the chemistry teacher instead of the chemistry teacher's question, and the sentence goes like:

Who's going to answer the question of the chemistry teacher, who I know is beloved by Polina?

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English tends to live and die by word order. When that gets complicated things can get messy. The instinct in those cases should be to simplify.

In your case, neither of your examples works because of word-order issues.

Who's going to answer the Chemistry teacher's, who, I know, is beloved by Polinna, question?

Here you have separated the possessive noun ("teacher's") from its object by some intrusive yet unnecessary information. The ear wants you to make "question" follow on right after "Chemistry teacher's"—"Chemistry teacher's question"—and only then address the love interest of a student, if indeed that is who Polina is.

Who's going to answer the Chemistry teacher's question, who, I know, is beloved by Polinna?

Here you are asking us to believe that Polinna is somehow in love with the teacher's question; the word order has failed spectacularly.

Again, simplification is the key to fixing the situation. One example:

The Chemistry teacher, beloved by Polina, has a question. Who'll answer it?

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