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Lesson 1 of みんなの日本語中級I teaches that

何とかお願いできないでしょうか

can be used to insist on a request while acknowledging that it is unreasonable. Regarding the grammar behind お願いできる, is the following understanding correct?

The (type-1) 謙譲語 for 願う is お願いする, which looks like a サ変動詞. Given that the potential form of サ変動詞 is constructed by replacing する with できる, is it correct to say that お願いできる is the potential form of お願いする?

In general, if I want to politely say that I can do something, or to politely ask whether I can/may do something, can I use the construction お/ご+マス形+できる? For example, if I want to ask about something I that I don’t understand, can I say

わからないことがあるんですが、お聞きできないでしょうか。

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  • I think お聞きしてもいいですか? or お聞きしてもよろしいですか? sounds a lot more natural, but I don't know the reasons why. お聞きできないでしょうか just sounds a bit odd to me... I'm curious about the reasons why this works for お願い, maybe because its a set phrase or a サ変動詞?
    – Shurim
    Mar 10 at 21:40
  • @Shurim Thank you for pointing that out. Now that I think about it, I guess できる works for お願い but not for お聞き because whether 願える or 願えない depends on the listener, whereas whether 聞ける or 聞けない depends on the speaker. If I want to ask something, I can always just ask. So the relevant question is not whether I can ask, but it is “even if I ask, its it okay?” (てもいい?). But when it comes to お願いできないでしょうか, I am really asking “would you make it possible for my request to be fulfilled?”...
    – Cabbage
    Mar 11 at 5:29
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The (type-1) 謙譲語 for 願う is お願いする, which looks like a サ変動詞. Given that the potential form of サ変動詞 is constructed by replacing する with できる, is it correct to say that お願いできる is the potential form of お願いする?

Yes, this is correct.

In general, if I want to politely say that I can do something, or to politely ask whether I can/may do something, can I use the construction お/ご+マス形+できる? For example, if I want to ask about something I that I don’t understand, can I say

わからないことがあるんですが、お聞きできないでしょうか。

For some reason, this phrase sounds like "Can I ask them a question?" and not "Can I ask you a question?" (or it might be understood as "Can you please ask them a question?"). This being said, yes, this phrase is correct and depending on the context, it might be understood correctly.

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