So apparently we lost the grammar war, and on-premises is just called "on premise" now?

Despite my best efforts, the EUC industry is now calling it "on premise" and not "on-premises."

I never thought I'd be writing a blog post like this, but now that I'm coming up on 20 years in this industry, and I'm writing on a website called, I feel like I've earned the right to. I'm saddened that the industry seems to have adopted the grammatically-incorrect term "on premise" in place of the actual term, "on premises" when discussing where servers will live.

Premise and premises are two different words which mean two different things:

  • premise - something assumed or taken for granted
  • premises - (1) a tract of land with the building thereon, or (2) a building or part of a building

So if you say, "I like VDI on premise," what you're saying is "I like the idea of VDI." If you say, "I like VDI on premises," you're saying, "I like VDI inside my building." (Funny given my recent article about how everyone should just use DaaS, I guess you could say that I don't like VDI on premise or on premises. :)

Over the past few years, I fought the good Ted Mosby-like fight, correcting people as it came up. In fact exactly one year ago today, I tweeted it.

Picture of a tweet

I honestly don't have a problem with individual end users and IT pros confusing the terms. They're IT geeks, not grammar geeks. But when people who work at vendors in the space are talking about their products, or, (even worse), when vendors themselves are talking about their own products in news releases, there is no excuse for them not to be grammatically correct! Isn't this what PR pros' jobs are? (Or does making up zealotic quotes which they ascribe to random execs take up too much of their time?)

Unfortunately it looks like we lost the war in the past year, with VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft all preferring the term "on premise" over "on premises" in their official press releases and technical documents. I first noticed it with VMware's Horizon 6 press release, and searches on today reveal 3280 mentions of "premise" versus only 489 mentions of "premises." Citrix mixes and matches the two terms, (sometimes even on the same page). They used to get it right, but their recent press releases have switched to "on premise." Microsoft released 15 press releases in the past 12 months on this topic. 5 used "on premises" and 10 used "on premise."

Seriously I don't know why this is. The two terms do not mean the same thing and are not interchangeable. Are we all just that lazy that we can't stumble through the three entire syllables of premises? And if we're too careless to notice that, what chance do we have of actually paying attention to the technical documents to install these products? (Again, I don't fault individual usage of IT pros, but vendors' press releases? Seriously??)

Or maybe this is the evolution of language. It's shortened, perverted, and flexed to evolve with the times. Fine, let's call it linguistic evolution.

bt i srsly dont lik it. do u?

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"VDI" itself is the other one - people keep referring to VDI as a singular desktop, or multiple virtual desktops as "VDIs".

Drives me nuts.


Language always evolves around the way people use it. Over time, pronunciations and meanings change and adapt as their usage changes.

Whilst the "incorrect" usage may grate with the grammar pedants it's a natural evolution. Embrace it's happening.

Look forward to the day that "on premise" gets added to the OED as an alternative definition for "on ones own premises"

Just my 2p :)

I may be forced to accept people's use of "premise" to mean "premises," but I refuse to accept "it's" when it should be "its." 

Unfortunately, this is the way the world is moving. The BBC used to be the epitome when it came to the correct usage of grammar, spelling and pronunciation and the British broadsheets such as the Times and Telegraph the gold standard of correct language usage (English language, naturally, not American language). These days BBC news broadcasts, editorials and web site articles are scattered with bad grammar and spelling, and even the broadsheets full of appalling mistakes. It is hardly surprising that simple words like 'premise' and 'premises' are confused and used inconsistently, as those who used to be charged with their correct implementation (namely, the media) have no interest in such things.

In the wider scheme of things, does it really matter....I'm sure my paragraph above contains several punctuation errors are grammatical 'faux pas', but the words hopefully communicate the premise of my argument :-)

I think we have bigger fish to me the word 'Cloud', while describing an idea that even my mother understands, is the most inconsistently used phrase currently touted in our industry.


The cloud is simply other peoples' computers.

And "on premise" grates hugely with me. Hard to "get over" that usage.

Totally agree help4ctx, 'cloud' was out of hand years ago...

This all reminds me of people saying  'NIC card'. The acronym changed to Network Interface Controller so that 'NIC card' became OK to say.


it's actually "on prem" :)


Lets’ be pedantic !!

There are several dictionary definitions of the word ‘premises’, these range from “The land and buildings owned by someone, especially by a company or organization”, to “A house or building, together with its land and outbuildings, occupied by a business”.  In the former case, the use of the phrase “on premises” to describe IT systems and services used by a business is a misnomer as most large organizations these days host the majority of their systems in a third party data center which is leased and not ‘owned’ and therefore not on their premises.  In the latter case, the IT systems and services are not in location ‘occupied’ by the business; in a similar fashion to the previous statement the data center is typically ‘leased’ and not occupied by company personnel, but personnel from the data center management company.

So, as the majority of systems these days are hosted in third party locations not owned or occupied by the business everything is essentially ‘off premises’, we can dispose of the phrase altogether and the debate can clearly be closed.  

Help4ctx, there are many other dictionary definitions.  For example, gives

  1. a tract of land including its buildings.
  2. a building together with its grounds or other appurtenances.
  3. the property forming the subject of a conveyance or bequest.
This has no mention of the owner or occupier of the property.  From context, it is clear that the premises being mentioned are the premises on which the item to be serviced is located, not those occupied by the client.  So technically, "on premises" is informative and cannot be disposed of.

(I hope I'm not taking your exhortation "Let's be pedantic" too much to heart here.)

Sorry to post again, but I love this type of random, useless discussion, even if it is just with myself !!

Taking this debate to another level and based on my previous argument, let’s discuss the use of SBC/VDI and even DaaS:-

My Thin Client or PC with HDX/PCoIP/RDS/EOP client software really is ‘On Premises’, unless my office space is rented and does not belong to the company.

The hardware which hosts my actual desktop is ‘Off Premises’ in someone else’s data centre which I lease from someone else.

My actual desktop is just a series of bits and bytes which spend time ‘On, Off and Between Premises’.

Arguably, the particles which correspond with these physical entities occupy multiple physical dimensions and I cannot ever be certain that the state of these particles is on/off/between premises, this galaxy or even known universe.

Brian, I think this is what the media typically call a ‘slow news day’ !!



How about "RDP protocol"

Or using RDS to serve remote applications?


Exactly! Atrocities!


Great discussion. I've been called a grammar Nazi at times, even though my own grammar is not perfect by any means. I think that there a few contributing factor here:

The Tech industry is full of people with English as a second language (including myself, so don't call me a bigot!) and many of us foreigners really learn the colloquialisms by listening to people with a "good" american accent and assume that they must have it right. We come here with basic high school English and keep learning by listening and not through any formal schooling.

To make things more difficult, Americans are so polite that they rarely correct our botched use of English, so there is little help on that front.

Secondly, techies in general, are often less concerned with the correct use of language (even the late Richard Feynman, one of the most brilliant physicists of the 20th century wrote that words, spelling, language is just convention and not hard fact, so why bother what is "correct").

Personally, I believe that all modern and advanced societies rely on precise language to convey precise meaning. So, like Brian, this type of stuff annoys the heck out of me and it seems that the media people are not paying that much attention to it anymore either.

Anybody want to discuss the annoyances of using "simplistic" instead of "simple" or "reactionary" instead or "reactive"? :)


The majority of systems are now off premise/s? I was just at a Microsoft meeting in Tampa and out of about 100 companies only a small handful had anything meaningful off premise.  (It does feel weird saying premise without the s).

I've heard Microsoft people use the term "on premise" as well... so weird that they'd ever get something wrong...

another; when people say "PIN Number", as in, "I can't remember my new PIN Number".

What, you can't remember your new Personal Identification Number Number?!


@jrudacille. - 95% of the customers I have worked with in the UK over the last few years have hosted their IT offsite, maybe it's a geographical thing, almost definitely a size thing as I work mainly with a Enterprise customers.

@Gareth - And you type your PIN into an Automatic Teller Machine machine

I agree - it grates on my nerves every time I hear "on premise" but these days I hear national news broadcasters make up words like "efforting" so clearly the old rules of grammar no longer apply.
I'm with you Brian.  How hard is it to add one more "s" to on-premise so it becomes grammatically correct? 
Dear god - thank you!! This makes my ears bleed whenever we talk about the cloud vs locally hosted applications... get it together people! It's not "just the way language evolves..." ... it's ignorance. If you want to portray yourself in such a fashion, knock yourselves out. Brian in Colorado
I think it is sheer laziness e.g. Now less means fewer apparently! This would be spurned on by common mistakes such as supermarkets have a '10 items or less' aisle. When the mistake is so public people think it must be correct. Next minute it is.... An ad on TV here says 'made freshly on premise' does that mean they are thinking about baking?
I'm sticking with "premises" just like I continue to use the subjunctive.  It just feels better.
The grammar war is not lost yet, even though it is likely to be soon.

Like several other posters, I get really irritated when I read "premise" where it should be "premises" -- which is why I searched for a discussion like this one.  I think that a big part of the problem is that many people don't know the word "premise", which is a failing of our teaching of critical thinking, rather than vocabulary.

Sure there are plenty of similar evolutions (most notably "pease" -> "peas", but other like "an ewt" -> "a newt", "a napron" -> "an apron", "a norange" -> "an orange").  However, this evolution of language makes it harder to pass knowledge between generations.

I expect than in 100 or 200 years' time our high-tech infrastructure will be in ruins and we'll need to go back to early 20th century books on topics like analytical chemistry.  I'd like language not to have "evolved" to the point where the people of that time can't understand them.
Actually, this is not a "grammatical" problem, but a "usage" problem. And I agree with you premise :-) wholeheartedly. (Note that you can't hyphenate an "ly" adverbial construction, such as "grammatically incorrect." That's a mechanical problem.
"On premises" is also grammatically incorrect. "On-premises" would work, in the same way that "on-site" (now frequently shortened to onsite) works.

E.g. "We have on-premises backup servers." or "We have backup servers on the premises".
Mungo2k, why is "on premises" incorrect?  Are you saying that an adjectival phrase can't start with a preposition unless it is hyphenated?  I've never heard that one.

In particular, the adjective "tomorrow" made the transition from "to-morrow", which came from the phrase "to morrow" (or "on the morrow").  If we take earlier forms as being "correct" and new ones as "errors", then the correct rule seems to be that we do not need hyphens between these compound adjectives.

Is it incorrect to say "The post mortem examination", rather than "The post-mortem examination"?  (After all, most prescriptivist rules for English were taken from Latin :)

I think we need to choose our battles when trying to retain grammar, and this is one I'd let slide.
What irks me the most is the statement "So what? It doesn't matter". Is it just me that shudders when thinking how any professional can think precision doesn't matter?
Why embrace the incorrect? No, it's not a big deal. No, it's not worth marching in the streets with torches and pitchforks. But why not hold the line against incorrect usage within your own sphere of influence? Just because other people do it wrong doesn't mean we all need to feel pressure to do it wrong.
Anyone who ever studied logic would never use the word premise incorrectly.
Spot-on Brian! It's the dumbing of society. Here in the USA, it plays out everyday.