Word Choice – Premise Versus Premises

Pam’s question: “I am curious about the appropriate use of ‘premise’ and ‘premises.’ I never see ‘premise,’ but I understand it is the singular form of ‘premises.’However, I continue to see ‘premises,’ e.g., people refer to premises lease rather than premise lease.”
 


BizWritingTip response: When I teach a grammar course, I tell people that for every English grammar rule there is an exception. Premise and premises are prime examples.
 


Normally, when we add an “s” to a noun, we make it plural. When we remove the “s,” we make the word singular. However, in this instance, the “s” actually changes the meaning of the word.
 


The singular word “premise” when used as a noun means “a statement assumed to be true and from which a conclusion can be drawn.” It can also be used as “the basic plot or circumstances on which a play, film, etc. is based.”
 


Examples

The project was started on the premise that it had to be completed by the end of the quarter.
The books are based on the premise that magic is possible.
 


On the other hand, the plural word “premises” means a “house, building, etc., with any nearby buildings or property belonging to it.” Therefore, the “premises lease” would be correct.
 


Examples


Smoking is not permitted on these premises.
We checked the premises for the source of the noise.


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