Are you clear about the use of ‘premise’ and ‘premises’?

The many COVID-19 instructions about self-isolating have highlighted an anomaly in English (and we know there are many!)

Premises is a plural noun, but it is used to describe a single building, using a plural verb. (See the end if you are interested in why.)

So, it would be correct to say, ‘This house is mine. The premises are suitable for self-isolation.’ (The premises are…)

However, it would be incorrect to say, ‘The premise is suitable for self-isolation.’ (The premise is…)

The singular word ‘premise’ has an entirely different meaning: an idea or theory on which an action or statement is based.

Here’s an example using premise correctly:
‘Let’s work on the premise that the vaccine rollout in Australia will be completed by the end of October.’

I hope that clears up any confusion.

And here, for the etymology fans, is the Macquarie Online Dictionary entry about ‘premises’.

‘The use of premises to mean a building and grounds derives from its use to refer to the people and items listed as the preliminary to a conveyancing deed.’

Blame the lawyers, I say 🙂

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Picture of a house and the dictionary definition of premises