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According to a forum user the expression, seemingly always expressed as a question, gives the meaning:

"What am I bid!?" is an expression usually used by an auctioneer when he is starting a bidding process for an object that he is selling. He is asking for someone to offer a price (bid).
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There were two films with this name, one in 1919, and one in 1967 about a person who wants to become an auctioneer. The only place I've seen this in a dictionary is at Lexico, which gives the English->Spanish translation of:

  1. what am I bid for this vase? — ¿cuánto ofrecen por este jarrón? (Roughly "how much are you offering for this vase?")

The meaning is pretty clear, but I have two questions:

1.How should this sentence be parsed? For example, "bid" is a verb in "What do you bid?" and a noun in "What is your bid?" What is it, or was it, in this expression?

2.Can the expression be conjugated for grammatical person, as in:

What (are they/is he) bid (at the auction).

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  • It looks idiomatic: What am I (to) bid?, that is what am I supposed to bid?. – user 66974 Mar 24 '20 at 9:05
  • Related: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/8986/… – user 66974 Mar 24 '20 at 9:11
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    @user067531 No, that isn't the meaning. As the quoted definition says, it is a standard phrase used by auctioneers, asking for someone in the room to start the bidding by making an offer. The sense is "What is anyone prepared to bid (to me)?" I don't think it would ever be used except in the first person. – Kate Bunting Mar 24 '20 at 9:14
  • @user067531 It doesn't mean that. It means "What does someone bid me (for this thingamejig)". The form is as in "What am I given/known for/thought of/asked/etc?". – WS2 Mar 24 '20 at 9:14
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"What am I bid?" (Please note that, in English, it is an error to have two punctuation marks together.)

This is a shortened form of "What amount of money am I bid by you for this item?" which is the passive form.

"What...am........I........bid?"

object verb subject past participle

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  • Thanks. I think this makes sense. Though I'm just not sure "to bid someone (money)" sounds normal to me, as in "I bid him $10." Though I'm not sure. – Zebrafish Mar 25 '20 at 6:21
  • "I bid him $10." is fine in context A: "He does not want to sell it but I bid him $10 and he accepts." but is not the same construction. Usually, the fuller form is "I bid him $10 for the item." (Note how "I bid $10 for the item" and "I bid $10" are perfectly idiomatic.) – Greybeard Mar 25 '20 at 10:53

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