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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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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.

  • 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". – James Waldby - 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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