what's the difference between "Put the phone down" and "Put down the phone"? Is it the same? As for me the first one means literally to put the phone (the thing) down and the last one is to end the conversation, am I right?
They both mean the same thing. You can say "Put down the [something]" or "Put the [something] down". Using old fashioned, wired, phones, you terminate a call by replacing the receiver in its cradle ("putting it down"). On a modern mobile or cordless phone, you have to to press a button or touch a place on the screen. For either of these actions, people can say they "put down", or even "hang up" the phone.
They mean the same thing, but there can be differences of emphasis. In general, the phrase with more significance often comes back, so "Put the phone down" emphasizes draws attention to the phone, while "Put down the phone" emphasizes the action of putting it down.
For instance, if someone is holding two things, you might say "Put the phone down" to make it clear that you're just talking about putting that one thing down.
However, this is a very slight nuance, and when speaking you can use tone of voice to override it. "Put the phone down" emphasizes "down" by saying it more forcefully.
The difference between the two sentence variations amounts to a principle of grammatical best practice that urges a speaker never to split a verb and its auxiliary preposition unnecessarily.
- "Put down the knife!" not "Put the knife down!"
- "The student looked up the definition" not "The student looked the definition up."
However, recognizing when not to split up a prepositional phrase requires a certain fluency in English rather than a hard-and-fast rule.
- "Could you please switch it off?" not "Could you please switch off it?"