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Someone criticized me for using the word "premises" to denote a set of assumed "propositions", due to its connotation with houses and buildings.

Is that correct? If so, what should be the proper plural form of "premise"?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Merriam-Webster give an example using premises: <the basic premises of the argument>.

I do not think there is anything wrong with this use of premises. I don’t find homophony or having multiple meanings to be valid reasons to criticize use of a word.

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Agreed, the context should make the meaning perfectly clear, since the two meanings are far enough from each other that it is unlikely to create confusion. –  pkaeding Sep 13 '10 at 19:46
I believe it was Sidney Smith who remarked that two women arguing across a fence would never agree because they were arguing from different premises. –  Colin Fine Oct 6 '10 at 12:55
@Colin, that is hiliarious, nice quote. –  Anonymous Type Nov 1 '10 at 22:22

Premisses is sometimes used to distinguish the logical term, but premises is more common. There was allegedly a professor who continued to lecture during an air-raid even though plaster was falling from the walls, till the chairman said "I'm afraid I must stop you there, our premises will not sustain your conclusion."

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Hilarious anecdote. I think you should add that premiss has always been an alternative singular form for premise. Based on the precedent of bus-busses I suppose you can mix and match, although I don't recall ever having seen it myself. –  Merk Oct 19 '12 at 6:59

I think that the confusion stems from multiple possible uses of "premises."

The first is "premise" as a synonym for "proposition." Then it's one premise, two premises.

But "premises" (with an s) can also refer to a location such as a house or building. Then the proper use of the world is "premises."

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