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When I want to make 「それを見せて下さい。」 more formal, I always say 「それを見せて頂けませんか?」. But, I want to double-check this.   

I never say 「それを見せて下さいませんか。」. While that seems perfectly fine, I don't think I've heard it used very much by native speakers. Rather, I think they more frequently say 「それを見せて頂けませんか?」.

(-) Is 「それを見せて頂けませんか?」 really used more frequently than 「それを見せて下さいませんか。」?

(-) Ignoring any sort of "nuance", are there any cases where I cannot say 「それを見せて頂けませんか?」 and I must say 「それを見せて下さいませんか。」?

thank you.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

You did not mention one (important) thing so I would like to ask. Are you aware that the unmentioned subjects of the sentences are different between 「それを見せて下さいませんか。」 and 「それを見せて頂けませんか?」?

BTW, you would need to write ください and いただく in KANA because they are used as supplementary verbs here.

In 「それを見せてくださいませんか。」, the hidden subject is "you". With "Verb + ください", the subject is the listener. This is polite speech.

In 「それを見せていただけませんか?」, the hidden subject is "I". With "Verb + いただく", the subject is the speaker. This is humble and polite speech.

To answeer your questions, we do not really use one form more frequently than the other. In general, however, 「それを見せていただけませんか?」 would sound more polite, so it would be considered too polite to use within your [内]{うち} group -- your family, bosses, colleagues, etc.

With your [外]{そと} group, it would not sound too polite; in fact, it would sound just right. That group includes strangers, people from other companies than your own, teachers, etc.

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