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I'm curious as to why these two verbs use their い-stem, instead of う like ます does after the い-stem and くれる/あげる/おく do after the て form. (I know the two are aru special class verbs.) Does this have to do with 有り/なり using い by default back then, or is it more about roundabout formal speech?

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As pointed out in the comment section, くださる and なさる are irregular verbs in Japanese. The regular imperative form くだされ/なされ somehow changed to ください/なさい long ago, making them look identical to the pre-masu form.

The れ version still exists, but sounds fairly old. You can hear samurai and old sage say 見なされ or 見てくだされ in fictional works.

See also: Proper form of なさる - なさります or なさいます

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