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When using the word consensus in a sentence, is it correct to say consensus on, over, or, of? For example if someone were to say,

In 1960s British politics, there was consensus [correct word] the National Health Service?

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It depends.

  • You may be speaking of a consensus concerning or about or respecting or with regard to the NHS—that is, a general agreement about what that institution should do or what should be done with it, or something of that sort.

  • You may be speaking of a consensus in the NHS, some general agreement about something held by the officers staff of that institution. I daresay some might accept a consensus among the NHS in that sense; I wouldn't be very comfortable with that, but I'm not very knowledgeable about whether the NHS comprises in any sense a coherent body of people.

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    Consensus is a picture noun, so it can take a complement clause. Usually this is a tensed clause, with a that complementizer: The consensus was/They reached a consensus that the roast was done. Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 0:41
  • @JohnLawler 'Picture noun' is concept I have not encountered. I am moved to echo Beckett: POZZO:Wonderful! Wonderful, wonderful sight! Silence. ESTRAGON:(irritably). Expand! Expand! Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 0:51
  • 'Picture noun' is a technical term, and I'm not responsible for it. But I have expanded on it here already. Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 1:26
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    In general, if I use a term (say "picture noun") that anyone doesn't understand, they can just Search user:15299 "picture noun". That's what it says in the search box on my ELU home page (or whatever it's officially called). By now I've got quite a few posts where I explain what I mean and what the terms I use mean. Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 1:29
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    @StoneyB On ELU, 15299 is the highest possible GO-TO-WHEN-YOU-FEEL-TOTALLY-LOST Error Code and signifies "The explanation you so desperately need can be found here." :)
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 5:39
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See the collocations of consensus with usage examples.

The example sentence is possibly not well-structured. Your only choice seems to be within for the given structure.

In 1960s British politics, there was consensus within the National Health Service.

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It's "consensus on". I've just corrected it in an academic text for publication.

Other options are possible, for example a Google search for "consensus regarding" get half a million hits, whereas "consensus concerning"only gets 120,000 or so, perhaps because people don't like repeating "con-" twice in succession.

Trust me, I'm a translator :-)

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  • Traduttore, traditore.
    – rajah9
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 19:25

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