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I'm talking to a friend. And I want to make my lack of self-confidence very clear, so I utter the following:

“I don't know what the hell I'm doing” – that's the premise on which I start my every day.

A part of my non-native brain wants to substitute the construct "premise on" with "premise with". I think both might be valid, but, as this whole post implies, I'm not really sure what I'm doing. I'd appreciate any feedback on this.

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Either is fine for the premise which acts as a starting point, although "on" is more common and a bit more precise. You're really taking "on the premise" or "with the premise" and converting it to a relative clause, so I've looked at that as well as "premise on/with which".

There's a slightly different meaning, in that "on" specifically means you use the premise as a basis to build upon (as in a logical system you start with premises and build consequences), while "with" means more generally that you are associated with it (whether agreeing/disagreeing with it, associating something with it, or working with it as a foundation).

The Corpus of Contemporary American English has 827 hits for "on the premise" e.g. from Discover Magazine "First would be to try to base the discussion on the premise that cultural effects can be very powerful..." Or Gloucester Times: "And on that premise, we always present coverage based on the premise that our Gloucester Times readers can indeed handle the truth". It has 26 hits for "premise on which", e.g. from Foreign Affairs: "This common goal is the basic premise on which the U.S.-Japanese alliance rests"

It has fewer hits for "with the premise": 334 hits, many of which are "I agree/disagree with the premise". But there are relevant examples, such as gwu.edu: "Starting with the premise that Washington wanted to work with New Delhi..." Daily Kos: "If he starts with the premise that anything that increases the deficit is immoral to begin with". (In all contexts "starting with" is more common than "starting on", so that's an influence.) There aren't many examples of "premise with which": the only relevant one is from Studies in English Literature: "The premise with which he begins his Punchean history-"

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  • Great insight, thank you for the in-depth explanation and examples, I enjoyed reading your answer! Commented Feb 22 at 21:31

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