Which way is the correct way to ask this question in English? 1 or 2?

  1. How well did the system respond to your actions in real-time?

  2. How well did the system respond in real time to your actions?

Is "in real-time" considered as an adverb?


2 Answers 2


When deciding where to position in real time, you can think of it as a prepositional phrase or as an adverbial phrase.

As a prepositional phrase, you can choose which of the two prepositional phrases (to your actions and in real time) goes first- as long as it's unambiguous:

she looked with disgust at the man -unambiguous
she looked at the man with disgust -unambiguous
she looked with a smile at the man -unambiguous
she looked at the man with a smile -ambiguous

As a prepositional phrase, both of your sentences are unambiguous, so they are both possible.

If you treat it as an adverbial phrase, there is more latitude. There are various rules of thumb for where to place adverbs, for example this and this and this. Curiously, none of them mentions placement of an adverb after the main verb, however

She strode purposefully across the lawn

is clearly valid and sounds much more natural than

She purposefully strode across the lawn

Looking at your two sentences, both are valid: I would regard in real time in sentence 1 as an adverbial phrase qualifying the whole sentence, and in sentence 2 as an adverbial phrase qualifying respond.

Regarding the hyphen in real time: when you use it as a noun (as it is in the adverbal phrase in real time), you should not include the hyphen. The hyphen should only be present if you use it as a modifier (per Oxford Dictionary) or as an adjective (per Cambridge Dictionary).


It's actually a prepositional phrase acting as an adverbial of time. It's made up of a preposition "in" and a noun "real time" (don't confuse it with "real-time" [as modifier] which means "Relating to a system in which input data is processed within milliseconds so that it is available virtually immediately as feedback to the process from which it is coming, e.g. in a missile guidance system. or "real-time" [as adjective] meaning communicated, shown, presented, etc. at the same time as events actually happen")

Adverbials of time (or Adverbial clauses of time) unlike different adverbs of time, which can be placed either the front, end or middle of a sentence, are usually placed at the end of a sentence or in the front (acts as an introductory modifier), between the subject and the verb, or parts of the phrasal verb, or the verb and its object and should be separated by a comma if it is unusually long, and answer the question "when?" Placing the prepositional phrase elsewhere may make the sentence very difficult to read and might confuse the reader.

With your sentences:

  • How well did the system respond to your actions in real time?

The flow is natural and the meaning is clear when the prepositional phrase is placed at the end.

When it is placed in the beginning it's okay too, since the meaning is still clear:

  • In real time how well did the system respond to your actions?

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