When stating the conditions in which an experiment was done (no particular emphasis needed)... What's the correct word order "Plants were exposed to freezing temperatures for 2 hours" OR "Plants were exposed for 2 hours to freezing temperatures"? Are both correct?

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    for two hours can appear in either position. At the end of the sentence is how it would most often be said; moving it after the verb ("exposed for two hours") would make the duration a little more prominent. – TRomano Feb 11 '16 at 12:43
  • Naturally and without doubt, "Plants were exposed to freezing temperatures for 2 hours." -- not the other way. It is a matter of contextual semantics, not writing style. Btw, use "two" in place of "2" if you can. – Kris Feb 11 '16 at 13:43
  • @TimRomano It's not merely emphasis. – Kris Feb 11 '16 at 13:44
  • @Kris: I didn't call it "emphasis". – TRomano Feb 11 '16 at 13:46
  • Scientific papers are not bound by "two" instead of "2" rules – Paul Childs Aug 2 '18 at 6:13

Either is correct. Which order you use is a matter of emphasis - the first is considered to have been given more emphasis by virtue of being first in the list, the others in the list will be then placed in decreasing order of importance.

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    Please see my comments at OP. – Kris Feb 11 '16 at 13:44

Plants were exposed to freezing temperatures for 2 hours [for 2 hours to freezing temperatures].

An adverb is very versatile in a sentence. Its position in the sentence does not have to be right next to the adjective, verb, or another adverb that it modifies. This is why the adverb prepositional phrases, one answers "What?" and the other "To what extent (how long)?" can be moved around.

What were the plants exposed to? Freezing temperatures.

To what extent or how long were they exposed? For 2 hours.

Both phrases modify the verb phrase were exposed.

You can even place them at the beginning of the sentence.

To freezing temperatures, plants were exposed for 2 hours. [sounds better on the other side of the verb phrase]

For 2 hours, plants were exposed to freezing temperatures. [this one too would sound better on the other side of the verb phrase]

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