On-Premise vs On-Premises – Who Cares?

Update 7th June 2018

I should have linked this earlier, but please read Michelle Warmath’s comment here where as a linguist, she claims ‘On-premise’ is actually correct. I’m not a linguist, but it sounds very well reasoned and sensible. If it’s true, then the premise (!) of my article assuming the term is wrong, is wrong in itself. Anyway, food for thought – please read on. (and welcome Wikipedia readers – I didn’t add the link in to my own blog in case you wondered, but thank you to whomever did). I still have points I made that I stand by.

Original post

Haven’t we got better things to do than worry about this?

From time to time, I see people argue and get upset, frustrated or just obnoxious on the use of “on-premise”. But why?

Yes, the word “premises” means – a house or building, together with its land and outbuildings, occupied by a business or considered in an official context.

…and the word “premise” means – a previous statement or proposition from which another is inferred or follows as a conclusion

(thanks Dictionary.com)

so, it makes sense to extrapolate this to an IT term when referring to something being on your property as “on-premises”. It’s the correct term to use.

However, ‘on-premise’ has become mainstream, and it seems to irk a lot of IT professionals. This has been happening for years already, 3 years ago Brian Madden already wrote about how the grammar war had been lost.

We are now at a stage where the biggest of vendors use the term ‘on-premise’ Here’s a few easily googlable examples:

VMware Microsoft Mailguard SAP LogMeIn RedHat RSA

Also, I just used the word ‘googlable’. That’s not a real word… yet. You knew what I meant though, right? Partly because you’ve probably heard it before, and in context it’s rather clear.

Here’s an example of these polar opposite views on Twitter:

 


Obviously I’m on the side of the second example here.

To me, there is a huge difference between seeing someone email about “Microsoft Exchange 2012”. That doesn’t exist, and it means I don’t actually know which Exchange version you’re talking about, and question your knowledge on the product if you think that exists. I don’t apply the same logic to “On-premise” because it’s crystal clear what you mean by the term. If vendors commonly use it, why shouldn’t we expect customers of these vendors to do the same?

It’s also widely accepted to use ‘on-prem’ as an abbreviation. I’ve never heard or seen a complain about that term. Isn’t it then silly, and of little to no value to go on about ‘on-prem’ and ‘on-premises’ being acceptable, but ‘on-premise’ isn’t?

On top of this, not everyone is a wordsmith. We all have different skill sets and abilities, and nobody is an equal when it comes to language. It is not a sign of intelligence or lack of intelligence if someone writes about PC’s when they mean PCs. It’s not a lack of attention to detail either – just like so many struggle to have instant recognition of which variation of ‘there’ to use.

Here’s a little secret – up until a few days ago, I thought the term was ‘pre-madonna’ but saw it written for the first time… it’s ‘prima donna’. We all have these silly stories on terms that we got wrong for so much of our lives. I also knew someone who was telling me about ‘phone ticks’. It was actually phonetics, they’d just never HEARD the word, only in it’s written form. They’re funny stories, but they all show a connection between the word and its use.

I’m not saying we should abandon grammar and correct terms. Using the correct term is what we should aim for; it reduces the chance of incorrect interpretation. However, the English language is always evolving. The term ‘Cloud’ was made up by someone recently, and it’s still a very broad, general use term that usually needs defining to work out exactly what it is in each situation.

Here’s another example; do you ever use the word ‘datum‘? It’s the singular of ‘data’. True, it’s less likely to be talking about a single piece of information, but when we do, who interchanges ‘data’ to ‘datum’? I don’t see anyone getting upset about that in the IT community…

I don’t mind if you disagree with me, and think it’s just THAT important that people add the missing ‘s’ on. If that’s what you want to do, good luck to you! I used to get annoyed with the term ‘Serverless‘ but have come to realise that despite it’s technical inaccuracy, I know what it means. So go on, keep using that word too.

Clear communication is what I believe is important; and nothing is lost in that when someone uses the term ‘on-premise’. There’s plenty of more valuable habits that are worth trying to change out there.

71 thoughts on “On-Premise vs On-Premises – Who Cares?

  1. There having quite a debate about this, but their really should be a right way. If they’re is, it should be documented and we should stick to it.

    Clear communication isn’t just about being ‘technically’ right, it is about being clear and not being misinterpreted because of the lack of physical queues in standard business communication. We live in a world of apologists regarding lazy communication because of the proliferation of chat and text, but spelling, grammar, and punctuation are still vital to expressing thought in text and will provide a great deal of information about the writer to those paying attention like prospective employers, colleagues, potential friends and potential mates. If that first sentence did not hurt on the way into your eyeballs, you are part of the problem.

    1. Thanks for your response Pete. Always like a reasoned debate!

      Slightly confused by your point though, as I agree and wrote that clear communication isn’t about being ‘technically’ right, and that grammar matters. If I was being picky, this sentence is way too long:

      “We live in a world of apologists regarding lazy communication because of the proliferation of chat and text, but spelling, grammar, and punctuation are still vital to expressing thought in text and will provide a great deal of information about the writer to those paying attention like prospective employers, colleagues, potential friends and potential mates. ”

      But I’m not being picky as this is a blog post comment and I don’t think there’s any misinterpretation of what you’re saying in that sentence :)

    2. I assume Pete was being deliberately ironic here by using “queues” instead of “cues,” which is why nobody has picked up on this in over a year.

  2. Mr. Fowler, I agree with your point that people understand what is meant by this term. However, the syntax of IT isn’t that different from other forms of language. Using incorrect words in configuration files or programs frequently cause the underlying system to fail. Likewise, using the incorrect words in language can also cause miscommunication issues. Words do matter, and in my opinion, people who have a hard time accepting the incorrect word are simply detail oriented people, and in our industry that’s a good thing. At this point, industry has accepted a term that rubs many the wrong way, and people like myself should accept it and move on.

    “Googlable” is a different case. You’re using a term that’s being created to fill a gap when a word didn’t previously exist to fill that role. In the premise vs premises debate, people are using the grammatically incorrect word.

    Respectfully,
    Tyler

    1. Hi Tyler,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I do agree that we should try to use correct language – I’m not saying we should abandon that, or try less to do so. My main point is that when others aren’t perfect, but it’s still 100% clear as to what they mean, is it really such a huge drama? Sure, they can be told what the correct term is, but in this example the incorrect term is so widespread and used, it’s hard to really call it incorrect anymore. There’s no grey area by using either term.

      I could have used the word ‘searchable’ and you’d know what I meant, and I’d be grammatically correct. I don’t really care which search engine is used. Using a Kleenex was a made up word until a company decided to brand their tissue with the name, and do heavy advertising, and that’s a word used when another word already exists, and kleenex is on dictionary.com

      I think we’re coming to the same, or very similar conclusions here, and even if they’re a bit off – our ideals seem to be the same, but I’m just calling it and saying it’s not worth getting worked up about :)

      1. I disagree with your use of the expression “huge drama.” No one is committing vehicular homicide over the issue. No one is marching in the streets with torches and pitchforks. But it’s perfectly fine to weigh in on some forum in favor of using correct grammar. That’s not huge drama–it’s just standing up for correct usage.

    2. I agree, words matter. Humans make errors though, which is unavoidable without extra layers of protection along with what we do. The amount of errors I make typing this from my smartphone is very well masked by autocorrect.

      I agree that people shouldn’t use ‘on-premise’. But they do, and it’s not going to bother me in the slightest. Again this is just my view, I don’t expect everyone else to think the same.

      Appreciate the time you took to respond again, I think it’s a healthy debate.

  3. Adam, thanks for this post. I personally disagree with you: words do matter – I share Tyler’s opinion above. At the end of your article, you wrote something which fits into the topic: “despite it’s technical inaccuracy”. In this case you should use its, as the sentence requires the possessive form of pronoun it; and not the abbreviation of “it is” or “it has”. Surely I understood what you meant, but in the same way a browser understands malformed HTML (everybody agrees that programmers should write proper HTML, isn’t it?). It really bugs me that today it’s easier to find a .NET developer who cries when he sees two double quotes instead of string.Empty, or malformed HTML – many are pedantic with this kind of stuff – and at the same time cannot use common words. PS. I am from Italy, so I am not claiming that my English is perfect – I do better in my native language!

  4. You can’t just throw up your hands and say since everyone is doing it, it doesn’t matter anymore. Our language is not owned by the technology of the day. Premise is a well founded word whose specific meaning is still viable in language outside of technology blogs and marketing miscommunication.

    1. I completely agree. I also agree that “on-prem” is a legitimate variant of “on-premises” but “on-premise” is completely out of line. The other one that cuts across my grain is those to talk about their exercise “regime” when they really mean “regimen”. The root cause is that “premise” comes before “premises” and “regime” comes before “regimen” in the dictionary quick drops. People have gotten used to using the first word that pops up rather than using the correct one.

      1. Great observation. I also agree that the slang “on-prem” is more acceptable than the misuse of on-premise.

      2. On-prem is the safe go to. I still think it’s funny that on-prem is fine, on-premises is fine, but on-premise causes outrage.

      3. Although, ‘Prem’ itself is a word, so I don’t see why it’s acceptable while ‘on-premise’ can’t be used as shortened slang.

    2. The intent of what I wrote wasn’t to say it doesnt matter at all, it’s just so minor and causes no confusion. I get annoyed when things aren’t technically correct, but it’s because the information is wrong, rather than a temlrm being said without a letter on the end.

  5. Computers are exceptionally literal. In many programming languages, the same variable name with a single character different, even in case, makes a huge difference. Poor general grammar is a sign of lack of attention to detail. If you can’t get “you’re-your”, “to-too-two” or “there-their-they’re” correct, what else are you missing?

    1. Humans aren’t perfect, that’s why we have code debugging. All our brains work a little differently. I strive for perfection when writing but I’ll be better at it depending on the communication, audience and importance.

      I would say your second sentence had too many commas by looking at it again, and the fielrst comma wasn’t necessary but *shrug* it was readable and I got your message :) I don’t take that as you lacking attention to detail.

    1. I can read and understand what you wrote. What point are you trying to make here?

      I don’t believe I said ‘spelling doesn’t matter’.

      1. Somebody at work recently stopped a large presentation to make sure we all knew that on-premise was wrong. He is an a**hole and nobody wants to work for him.

      2. I think this is actually a great point. Being high and mighty about things like this doesn’t make other people like or admire you.

  6. “They’re funny stories, but they all show a connection between the word and it’s use.”

    SOMETHING FUNNY HERE….!

      1. I think he’s trying to say that you made a mistake using “it’s”. Again, like in my comment that was ignored, here you should use the possessive determiner “its”. The fact that many are doing this grammar mistake, doesn’t make it right. Maybe Charlie, like me, thought this fits into the topic.

  7. “People know what you mean” is an argument that results in sliding ever closer to gobbledygook. Sure, it doesn’t really matter that much, but neither do any of the rules of grammar, punctuation, and spelling when taken individually. That doesn’t mean there’s no value in trying to use correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling. On-premise is wrong, so I don’t see any reason to accept it just because other people do.

    1. “I’m not saying we should abandon grammar and correct terms. Using the correct term is what we should aim for.” is what I said in my post too. I’m just not going to attack someone or make a huge point of it which is what I’ve seen a lot of people doing (and was actually the trigger for writing this up, it started from a Twitter heated discussion).

      Why can’t On-premise be an abbreviation of On-premises, if On-prem is acceptable?

  8. I agree with you and I don’t. For sure, there are MUCH more important things to debate. However, the most frustrating part is why can’t people just use English properly – it takes very little effort. Really. If I was in a meeting and somebody said, “I like SharePoint on premise” it is a much different the same person saying, “I like SharePoint on-premises”. Of course in reality on the former, you’d likely figure out that they not only like the idea of SharePoint but they want it installed in their own building! It’s probably pointless to debate now – just go with whatever. It probably comes down to personal taste, those that are desire high orderliness and those that have messy bedrooms.

    1. Another thing that bothers me about the misuse of the terms is that other industries are using it correctly and have been for many years – car dealers that have factory trained technicians on-premises for example.

  9. In cases like these, I apply Postel’s law: Be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others. If others want to say “on-premise,” that’s their business. But I’ll opt for the clearer term. I came to this page because I had never heard the term “on-premise” until today. I had to look it up to be SURE that my impression (from context of the presentation) wasn’t off-the-mark. If the presenter had used “on-premises,” there would have been no question, and I would have been able to attend more to his presentation without being distracted by the uncertainty.

  10. The underlying assumption here is that ‘people’ ‘get it’. They do not. Not if they already know what premise and premises mean. (That is; they have a primary-school level of English?) Simply to denigrate the ‘insistence’ that the correct term be used, when known, misses the point completely. World hunger is more important than any of this but we cannot spend all our waking hours considering nothing else and damming all other considerations in life as trivial and solved.

    Of course it’s not important in the greater scheme of things but the blind assumption that ‘everyone’ gets it is entirely wrong. I work at a company that performs ‘On-premises’ integrations if you read the technical help but customers must buy something called an ‘on-premise installation’ (which is ludicrous).

    A bunch of software geeks got it wrong in the first place and now everyone talks about ‘evolving language’. ‘Getting’ something as obvious and ‘easy’ as this wrong in one’s native language tells us that that software engineers have to have this class of error fixed by someone else. A bunch of nitwit software geeks got it wrong and instead of changing it to the right word ‘decided’ they had invented a new word or meaning, something just as ‘rational’, is looney tunes. They need a smack and they need to do more reading. They should certainly not get involved in defending this, as then we simply hear about the number of people getting it wrong (and I would hold that is not ‘obvious’ that premise means premises) versus the number of untrendy old farts who ‘obsess’ about the tiniest things. This is indeed ‘just’ about communication. But that does not lead, in any way, to a conclusion that this is all ‘obvious’ and a distraction from ‘real things that matter’. (Try multiplying such behaviour across any software development cycle. Go refactor a few things and see how easy it is to ‘understand’ when thirty or forty or even three or four terms are entirely lame-brained.)

    Indeed, everyone I have met (and I have met an inordinate number of people confronted as ‘On-premise’ virgins) did not ‘get it’; they are confused (as they should be because the two words have wildly different meanings). After one has explained; then they ‘get it’ but never before. Indeed, even if they were correct (that ‘premise’ is somehow a bastardization of the correct term) it is only a ‘guess’ as the reality is Beavis and Buthead as project managers or product managers or communications directors.

    Naming things is hard. No need to be embarrassed. The name already exists right inside the language. So, if you want to sound like a nitwit use ‘on-premise’ and if you want people to know you do stuff ‘on-site’ say ‘on-site’ (which we cannot because of pesky Web sites gobbling up the words) or ON-PREMISES.

    1. I’ve never heard of anyone getting confused by the term on-premise when it’s been used instead of on-premises, but that’s just my experience.

      Yes you should work to get your company using the right term, and your write-up demonstrates how it can happen – since your company still exists, it doesn’t seem to have destroyed your company using the incorrect term.

      I am not advocating for anyone to use ‘on-premise’, more that others shouldn’t get so angry and worked up about it.

      Appreciate your detailed response!

      1. Well, you just heard about it from me. That they are not going out of business is related to this point in what way, exactly? Your experience is certainly ‘different’ from mine regarding this ‘word usage’. Mine is from VAST experience of this very thing. When we ‘guess’ things, then find out we happened to be correct, our memories seem to falsify our previous confusion. Oh, of course, on-PREMISE. yes, that makes sense now. I see. So, we change the world one confused customer at a time. But be not concerned. There is not a single marketing person at my company who would disagree with you. It’s eezee peezee. ‘Everyone’ gets it… except me.

  11. Let’s agree to disagree.
    Evolution in definitions and grammar is natural, however, the incorrect use of on-premises versus premise is plain ignorance. We have established words to convey ideas and premise/premises is the being used incorrectly. Would we accept interchanges of they’re, their, and there? Condoning bad grammar habits will reduce us to “tlkg lik dis” given enough time.

    1. This article wasn’t about accepting it, it was about realising people will get it wrong because they’re humans and not dwelling on it too much. Sure, send someone a message to correct them, but don’t lose your mind over it or yell into the abyss about how angry it makes you – you’re taking it too serious IMO if you’re at that stage :)

      1. They won’t get it wrong if they are not told the wrong words mean something else. Don’t humans correct? Language ‘evolves’ but this is not evolution. This is just stoo…pid. (Not you or anyone else; just the thing and its ‘happy acceptance’.) This is nothing but an extremely pointed example of why software is hard. People assume it’s the difficult algorithms or the design or the coding. But not being able to fix semantic coordinates is the real killer. Here is my take: Nobody ‘up high’ ever gives a rat’s ass about this (they’re not ‘out of business’). Therefore it is only and forever the people at the ‘coal face’ who see such issues. As I said; try renaming things using words that ‘seem’ the same as the correct words and see how far you get when you need to ‘understand’ a lot of things all at once.

    1. But why does that bother you so much? One parallel I can think of is calling Config Manager ‘SCCM’. It’s not the correct name for it, but people use it all the time (including me, but I try not to) and everyone knows what it means.

      1. It bothers me because the computer industry does not own the language. Executives we are supposed to respect will say “on premise” a dozen times in a one hour presentation, but the warehouse around the corner knows to post a sign that says they have guard dogs on premises. We don’t think most of those executives are stupid, but they sure sound stupid.

  12. This article makes computer people sound completely stupid, and the author is justifying stupidity. Tech folk don’t own the language, and just because a few grammar challenged people misuse something and it gets repeated is no reason to accept that usage. Big tech companies employ such people too, so they aren’t immune, nor is it a valid excuse to point to big companies – they don’t own the language
    As to “pre-madonna” I disagree with you; if you want to blog, be an author, or otherwise communicate publicly, you had better be a wordsmith.

    1. Well said Ohbee. Such an easy problem to fix. Naming things is usually difficult but ‘on-premises’ already exists right in the language. We can’t have it both ways. Either these things matter or they don’t. Nobody will go out of business leaving out the ‘s’ but it speaks volumes to the arrogance of management who, after being informed of the correct term, decide, rather than fix it, to ridicule the ‘grammarians’ (equipped with a basic understanding of English) as ‘anal’ or uptight, you know, harping on ‘the details’. Stephen Prettis’ example was perfect. However, I cannot even get people at my own company to properly reconcile these terms. So, all the people who instantly ‘know’ that a ‘premise’ is a singular building/business/firewall as well as “an idea or theory on which a statement or action is based” must be perhaps themselves more evolved than the fuddy duddies who demand clarity.

    2. People are stupid at many things, and not stupid at some things in my opinion. Also, restricting sharing information to only those who are wordsmiths is elitist, and you’d be pushing away many people who have English as a second language who are incredibly smart and have many things to share, but aren’t as good as you with the language.

      You missed a full stop in your post too. Should blog replies be under the same scrutiny?

      1. Missed a full stop did I? Ha… It’s a ‘new’ punctuation I’m trying. Invented by software engineers and now available to the world.

        I’m afraid i write too fast, and when I’m not paid I don’t check it… especially rants.

  13. No problems – this is an opinion piece, not a demand on how people must act and think :)

    Interestingly nobody has argued against data/datum being used incorrectly across the industry.

    1. I’ve had the data/datum argument. It is an entirely different class of problem (that is; it is not a problem). And even though ‘datum’ is ‘correct’, it serves no purpose that I can see (except to get super smart arse). It is a word that is ‘becoming’ forgotten. ‘Data’ is fine for singular and plural. But I wouldn’t smack someone for ‘being correct’. Found this: “data isn’t what they used to be.”

  14. We have found a good compromise at VMware by allowing/encouraging our IT people and execs to say “on-prem” as short for on-premises. Everybody seems happy with it, and it’s not hard to remember. JC

    1. Indeed. This cements the problem ‘under the carpet’. Internally, any suggestion of confusion is quickly dispelled using on-prem. We do the same.

      Company: We have an on-prem solution.
      Customer: On prem?
      Company: On premise.
      Customer: What premise?
      Company: Premiseeeees.
      Customer: Premiseeees?

      These customers are thick, no? Everybody must know that on prem means on premise, which means on premises.

      Right way (using actual English) (although English does require that extra pesky syllable):

      Company: We have an on-premises solution.
      Customer: That’s what we need.

      It is the fact that software companies see ‘on prem’ as a ‘solution’ to the problem of people being able to parse their own language that is most amusing. The evidence that this can never be ‘fixed’. What the hell have people got against adding ‘es’ at the end to allow the words to communicate the actual meaning? Much simpler to shorten the word, in order that we can take the meaning another degree further away. ;-)

      1. You just proved why using the wrong terminology is worse than just saying it correctly…”premises” is a well known word that’s not technical jargon. Change that and you’re “dense” customers are rightfully confused because they are not technical and you just made up a nonsense word. This isn’t hard, just say it correctly and there’s no problems.

    1. Funny, the word Emoji was made up by smashing two Japanese words together. That’s fine though, because some recently made up words are ok even if they’re from another language, but how dare we make up this word that drops one letter from what you expect. However, dropping half the word is still acceptable?

      Also, got a dictionary that has “On-Premises” in it? Everything I found just had them as two separate words.

      Finally, I’m unsure how an opinion can be wrong.

      1. English dictionaries have definitions for premise and premises. I’m not sure why you would care about a dictionary entry for either with a hyphenated prefix.

      2. “Everything I found just had them as two separate words.” I’m not sure why you’d repeat back to me what I just wrote? :)

        This is still missing the point of what I originally wrote – I’ve never said ‘On-Premise’ is a correct, accurate term and should be used by everyone all the time.

      3. Sorry. No, I have never seen a dictionary with the hyphenated prefix defines for either word. There are dictionaries on the Internet that list the idiom “on premises”. Merriam-Webster is one example.

  15. Thank you for an enjoyable and thoughtful read, Adam. I found everyone’s comments to be thought-provoking as well.

    I came across your article when doing some research for my work. I am a professional technical/legal/general language translator and former ESL teacher and am therefore also somewhat uncomfortable with the missing “s” in “on-premise” even though I have become inured to technical jargonization. I would like to offer another angle which might provide insight on that missing “s”.

    From a purely linguistic point of view, even though using “on-premise” to mean “on the premises” may cause some confusion and discomfort with regard to the meaning and spelling of “premise”, since it is hyphenated and used in a forward-positioned, albeit unconventional, adjective form (“on-premise version”) when referring to software/equipment installation and use, it is in fact *grammatically* correct.

    In English, adjectives are “invariable” which means they have no plural forms and therefore would not take an “s”, contrary to other languages like French in which the adjective has to “agree” with the noun, e.g., “un grand chien noir – des grands chiens noirs” (a big, black dog – some big, black dogs).

    “Premises”, referring to a place, has no adjective form; moreover, it is invariably used in the plural in this context. So I suspect that the “adaptation” of “on-premise” (no “s”) to be used as a forward-positioned adjective intended to mean “on the premises” inadvertently followed natural English grammar use and… dropped the “s”. If you think about it, you would not say “in-flights meals”, and this probably explains how “on-premise” came about.

    [As an aside and in complement to the comments about dictionary entries, it should be recalled that compound adjectives formed with a preposition and a noun are supposed to be hyphenated when they come before the word they are describing and do not take a hyphen if they come after that word: “after-sale service” / “service after sale,” “on-campus activities” / “activities on campus”, “after-dinner drinks” / “drinks after dinner” etc. So it is again grammatically logical and correct that making a compound adjective out of “on the premises” would require a hyphen if “on-premise(s)” is used before the word it describes: “on-premise(s) activities / activities on premises”. The sole example given by Webster places it after the noun which is why there is no hyphen. Of course, Webster has not yet accepted the hyphenated use before the noun – like all dictionaries, it seems. But who knows, maybe next year we will see “on-premises” or maybe even “on-premise” in the dictionaries. Stranger things have happened.]

    Notwithstanding all of the above, “on the premises” is just another way of saying “on the site [of the work or other activity]” and there is another longstanding and commonly-accepted adjective for that: “on-site”. I do not know why that has fallen out of favor and been replaced by “on-premise[s]”. It probably has something to do with language trends.

    I agree with many comments that the best compromise would be the short form “on-prem” – once it is commonly accepted that this means “on the [customer’s, etc.] premises” – with the “s”.

    And I agree entirely that this particular “issue” is not as important as quality, efficiency and good customer service, insofar as it does not interfere with the message sent regarding these factors.
    Certainly the use of “on-premise” sans “s” is no reason for undue criticism. The important thing is for the company to decide on and consistently use a specific spelling. Customers will indeed probably “get it” from the context (e.g., “solutions available in SaaS or On-Premise [or “On-Premises] versions”) and won’t be offended even if they were to bring up the missing “s” over coffee. I find there are more critical issues with current English use. For example, using “except” rather than “accept” is a far more serious matter if you write “I except your offer”, and we all know about those apostrophe struggles “it’s” vs. “its”, “they’re” vs. “their” vs. “there”, and then of course there is the use of “less” instead of “fewer” for countable nouns. I am not saying the world should come to an end if a person does not use these grammar basics correctly, but compared to “on-premise” they are still the correct, standard grammar use and are examples of the type of mistakes that could genuinely harm a company’s image on a website (= company showcase) or in a letter, as they may suggest the company might be as lackadaisical in its performance as it is in its proofreading. I make mistakes with its and it’s and other typos when I am tired and using instant messaging and not typing carefully (nobody’s perfect so neither am I); but it is better not to make them (and as you can see, I generally use the expanded form to avoid them).

    New technology is influencing all languages every day, and it should; as a linguist I appreciate your (all of you here) conviction that respecting correct language use and meaning are important as well.

    have a happy and safe holiday weekend,

    1. Thank you for such a thoughtful, factual and detailed comment Michelle!

      “From a purely linguistic point of view, even though using “on-premise” to mean “on the premises” may cause some confusion and discomfort with regard to the meaning and spelling of “premise”, since it is hyphenated and used in a forward-positioned, albeit unconventional, adjective form (“on-premise version”) when referring to software/equipment installation and use, it is in fact *grammatically* correct.”

      Wanted to quote this paragraph in particular from you, since I’m not a linguist and just assumed ‘on-premise’ was grammatically incorrect – so I was factually wrong! Hope this gives others something to think about, but again if you believe otherwise, please share why you believe so.

      1. I’m not smart enough to disagree with Michelle, but I would like to ask her if “on-premise”, in the context she presents, poses any problems with translations?

    2. It seems like this is entirely based on the premise (no pun intended) that “premises” spelled with an “s” is necessarily the plural form of the word, which I don’t think is correct. You make the example of “in-flights meals” but just because a word has an “s” at the end doesn’t necessarily make it plural — for instance, would it be correct to take your later example of “on-campus activities” and shorten it to “on-campu activities”? I think the “on-premise” shortening is less grating because “premise” just so happens to be a word, but it shares about as much meaning with the intention of the phrase as “campu” does with “campus.”

      1. I agree with Theo on this.
        Michelle’s article states rightly that “In English, adjectives are “invariable” which means they have no plural forms and therefore would not take an “s””,
        So the conclusion is that “premises” is the plural form of “premise”. That would be wrong.
        According to https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/premise, there is no singular form of premises in the sense of “a building or part of a building”.

      2. 3.) premises also premisses plural [ from its being identified in the premises of the deed ]
        a : a tract of land with the buildings thereon
        b : a building or part of a building usually with its appurtenances (such as grounds)

  16. My biggest issue with the differences is that not everyone is a native English speaker. Those who do not speak English natively tend to take things literally due to the translations involved. I work for a global company and often have to explain to my overseas co-workers why their other co-workers are talking about ‘the idea of’ something as opposed ‘to the location’ when used in regards to the on-premise and on-premises debate.

  17. It is really sad to me, a non-native English speaker, to see how little appreciation you show for your own language. Orthography is not questionable, if you disobey it you shall not be understood. The famous Brazilian writer Oswald de Andrade once said regarding an upcoming orthography reform: I don’t care how you write the words, provided that everybody writes the same way. Do not shame yourselves in front of the rest of the world: write on the premises, or on-premises. A on-premise (or on-premiss if you are British) software is a software that holds an assumption. It exists, but is something else.

  18. While interesting, Ms. Warmath’s post said: “(“on-premise version”) when referring to software/equipment installation and use, it is in fact *grammatically* correct.”

    Indeed, that is why it causes such confusion. It is not semantically correct. As Marcello says “… holds an assumption. It exists, but is something else.”

    Ms. Warmath also said: ” I do not know why (on-site)… has fallen out of favor and been replaced by “on-premise[s]”. It probably has something to do with language trends.”

    It has more to do with ‘Web sites”. If we are deploying software we must, today, differentiate between ‘site’ (the physical place) and site (the Web site). There are many ways one could do this. Using ‘On-premise’ is not so much a ‘solution’ as ignorance of the language.

    We are all ignorant of many things and that, in itself is not such a big problem. The problem is when the correct (or at least somewhat descriptive) ‘On-premises’ is rejected in favour of the brain-damaged ‘On-premise’; after it has been explained and pointed out.

    This is not the invention of a new term. It is not language ‘evolving’. As long as the actual meaning exists, this is simply willful obfuscation.

    Finally: “The important thing is for the company to decide on and consistently use a specific spelling.”

    Indeed, no. This is why the problem persists. It matters not a whit if everyone in a company agrees that on-premise means on-premises. It is only when ‘everyone’ agrees, that everyone can understand… without further explanations, that language can even work.

    Enjoyed the posts.

  19. Michelle’s post completely misses the point. ‘premise’ is an entirely different word, with an entirely different meaning. The premise of a novel is the basis of the plot; the premises of the novel is the building it is set in!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.