Should I use "will" or "may" in the following sentence:

I'm not planning on leaving the country any time soon, but you just don't know when a passport may/will 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.

1 Answer 1


I suppose will is very slightly more accurate, but I would say that either word is correct in everyday usage. The word 'will' connotes a more definite occurrence; if we say "that will happen", we are indicating that there is no doubt about it, where when we say "that may happen", we are specifically saying it may or it may not happen. In your sentence, there isn't any certainty about whether the passport will be handy, though there are situations where it will be required (that you may not foresee) and others where it is merely convenient.

But either word is correct in the sentence, and there is no real difference in their meaning here.

  • 1
    I'm not sure I agree with the idea that will is "very slightly more accurate". If anything, it seems to me may (or the equally valid might) are more "accurate", in that those forms are more closely associated with future possibility. The very nature of the context implies the passport might, or might not come in handy. Oct 24, 2015 at 12:56

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