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Is it correct to say:

“I'm not planning on leaving the country any time soon, but you just don't know when a passport may come in handy”?

One issue raised about the sentence was the usage of "may". Some people suggest I replace it with "will".

I was wondering if the present construction is acceptable.

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  • Using may rather than will implies uncertainty. But it is not essential here because the rest of the sentence makes it clear that you do not need it for any specifically immediate travel. However if you said simply A passport may come in handy it would imply something different to A passport will come in handy.
    – WS2
    Oct 24, 2015 at 8:27
  • Yes, present tense "may" is fine. In fact, "may" is always present tense, and means either possibility (as it does here) or permission.
    – Greg Lee
    Nov 27, 2015 at 16:01

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There is a difference between the two. You say "a passport may come in handy” if you think that there is that possibility.

You say "a passport will come in handy” if you are certain that, sooner or later, it will become useful. You are talking about a certainty in the future, not a possibility.

Just to complete the picture, you say "a passport might come in handy” if you think that there is that possibility (similar to "may"), but you also think that it is less likely.

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