Translation:The police officers found the dead captain.
italian here: logically it could mean both, but to say that they found the body most people would say: "trovarono il corpo del capitano" IMHO the sentence (without contest saying otherwise) should be interpreted: "they found out that the captain was dead when they found the body" i think it's the same in english, isn't it?
Does it make any difference if I translated it as:
The police officers found their captain dead
Key change: the -> their?
Or could it be a dead sea captain or something? Sometimes I noticed in Italian is that the possessive pronoun (their/yours/his/ etc) are not really included, but implied for the English translation.
In English, "The police found the captain dead" and "The police found the dead captain" have significantly different connotations. The first implies that that they were looking for the captain, but when they found him he happened to be dead. The second implies that they were looking for a dead captain when they began the search. So which is intended by this sentence in Italian?
it seems to me that "...the dead captain." is the only possibility. "dead" is actually a subordinate clause in ...the captain dead". "they found the captain who was dead" in English we would say "...the captain dead" but 'dead' wouldn't be an adjective but a truncated phrase. in Italian, I think (stressing my uncertainty) it would be "I poliziotti trovarono il capitano che era morto." my observation has been that Italian is far more likely to put these ideas into subordinate clauses, where an English speaker might not.
Surely this is an incorrect use of the Passato Remoto? This event is presumably something that happened in the recent past and something that has a connection with the present. Why is the historic past tense being used? No Italian would express this event this way, except in dialect?
There is no indication that this is the case. The exercises are in a Section called Past Tense. The two main past tenses in Italian are the imperfetto and the passato prossimo. The passato remoto is rarely used in modern Italian, except in the south, and it is usually not even taught, unless you are an advanced student. I assume that the person who set this exercise came from this area and thought this was the past tense to be used.
With respect: (1) The lesson is "past tense." (2) Passato remoto is a past tense. (3) Passato remoto is used by in modern Italian in the south. There is no basis for assuming that the event to which the speaker refers occurred in the recent past and is somehow connected to the present.
However there is also nothing to indicate the sentences are in the historic past, in fact many appear to be in the recent past, for which the passato remoto would be the incorrect tense to use. What the exercise seems to indicate is that the exercises have not been prepared or checked by a qualified Italian teacher, but rather just by someone who spoke the language as a native and followed a template.