I am familiar with the origin of the word premises as it relates to property, both land and structure (relayed here: Is "premises" always plural?). I want to know if there is an accpetable adjectival form.

So which of the following is most correct and which are acceptable?

  1. Virtual events are less effective than on-premise.
  2. Virtual events are less effective than on premise.
  3. Virtual events are less effective than on-premises.

(I know that reforming the sentence so that it doesn't use an adjective would likely be best, but what is the runner up?)

3 Answers 3


"On premises" is based on a legal term meaning "on the premises" by which a party establishes ownership of real estate. Because of the longevity of real estate, different legal systems may have been in place during the time of ownership; thus "premises" may be used to argue who is the rightful owner. "On Premise" is incorrect.

"On premises" is a compound modifier - that is, multiple words acting together as an adjective. A decision to hyphenate, as in "on-premises", is a style decision. The hyphen makes it clear that "on" doesn't modify "premises", but rather that the two words are acting together to modify something else, such as "she installed the software on-premises." I'd suggest that either form is valid and that the key is to be consistent within any given body of work.


I wouldn't use premises at all, but the more customary onsite:

Virtual events are less effective than onsite.

But if you had to use premises, perhaps the least bad option would be:

Virtual events are less effective than on the premises.

  • I'd go even further, and say that whereas I wouldn't be inclined to accept on-premises as valid usage, I have no problem with the hyphenated on-site. Jan 5, 2012 at 0:23
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers You'd accept hyphens? What's the world coming to? :-b (I may consider modifying my answer...)
    – Gnawme
    Jan 5, 2012 at 0:31
  • We Brits are a tolerant race. I only put the hyphen in out of deference to your original space, but the truth is I personally would simply go along with over 1M other written instances of onsite as a single unhyphenated word! :) Jan 5, 2012 at 1:04
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    @FumbleFingers True. Apparently, this is not my final answer. :-o
    – Gnawme
    Jan 5, 2012 at 1:08
  • I think in general I would agree. In my industry (shopping centers), on-premise is the term used most. On-site is not something I hear much and could be confused for the websites of the malls.
    – Taj Moore
    Jan 5, 2012 at 23:08

On-premise describes something that is on-topic or according to a statement; not "at a given location". I agree with the others who say that onsite is the correct term, but the buzzword-happy crowd has jumped all over on-premise and run with it. Even the dictionary says that the plural form is used to talk about land or buildings.

  • 1
    I remember the days when I went by that correct definition. I'm so enculturated now…
    – Taj Moore
    Jun 12, 2012 at 18:53

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