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What is the difference between assent and consent?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

To consent is to give permission, which could have been withheld. It implies a power relationship where the consent is granted by the party with more power.

There is the political theory that says, governments can rule only with the consent of the governed. That is, the people consent to be governed and thus grant their power to the government.

To assent is to agree with a statement made by an equal. On the Supreme Court, one justice writes the opinion of the majority, to which other justices assent. Those that disagree are said to dissent, that is to disagree.

So, consent = permission while assent = agreement. A subtle distinction perhaps, but a useful one.

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My brain's immediate shorthand response is:

"assent" = "agree"

"consent" = "allow"

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"Approve (of)," "assent," "consent," and "grant" may help. Some extracts:


In legal English, consent and assent are often used interchangeably. There is a subtle difference though.

The term assent connotes a positive and voluntary agreement both as a noun and a verb.
“Assent to a proposal of marriage.”

The term consent is neutral in connotation and can apply even when the agreement is given reluctantly.
“The employee consented to the non-compete clause being included in her employment agreement.”


Assent and consent are mostly synonymous—they both mean to agree or to give permission—but assent connotes a greater degree of enthusiasm, and consent often comes with reluctance. In law and government, consent is more readily denied, while assent is often a mere formality.

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Assent can also carry an official connotation, as of a government agency or official expressing approval. Otherwise they are synonymous.

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protected by Will Hunting Nov 17 '12 at 6:22

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