"Ich sollte einen zweiten Mann finden."
Now I have a question about English. Is it possible to say "I should find a second man" in such a way that it would be clearly past? "I should find a second man" seems more like present.
Ich muss ein Mann finden → I have to find a man (present)
Ich musste ein Mann finden → I had to find a man (past)
Ich soll ein Mann finden → I should find a man (present)
Ich sollte ein Mann finden → ??? (past)
I understand the meaning of all the German sentences and I have no problem translating it into my native language, but I'm a little confused about the English translation here.
Oh, I guess I found a way to translate this: I was supposed to find a second man. This is clearly past.
If you are good at German and English, please confirm or disprove! :-)
P.S. I have not tested this translation, it may not work (but if it is correct, I'll surely suggest it as correct).
The problem is, that sollte is not only the past tense, it is also the conjunctive II. Thus, the above sentence can be understood in 2 ways. 1) I was supposed to find a man (in the past) and most of the time you would use it if you did not succeed. 2) I am supposed to find a man and would derive some gain from it, but there are things that stop me.
For example: Ich sollte mein Zimmer putzen. would generally mean I realize my room is dirty, I should clean it, but right now I do not have time/motivation to do it. To refer to the past you would say "ich musste mein Zimmer putzen" if you did do it and "ich hätte mein Zimmer putzen sollen" if you did not.
You are indeed correct on the name of the tense in German. I was thinking in English when I wrote. In English there are two modal verbs to support its future and future subjunctive tenses, shall (should), will (would), respectively. Their meanings are distinct. The former 'shall (should)' deals with an imperative meaning. Thus, 'You shall do this' indicates a determined direction to perform something (an imperative for the second case, you) while 'You will do this' is a statement about doing something in the future, referred to as a future indicative in my experience but maybe others have seen other names.The same is true for I shall, he shall, etc. Comparable statements can be made about the subjunctive forms, should, would. I am not sure about the respective tense names given. We do need to be careful about the distinctions between the moods subjunctive in English and conjunctive in German. There is some overlap but not identical.
Having said all that, there does appear to be a difference in German grammars I have consulted. You may know all this already but for clarity let me add a few words. In Soglio's reference below 'soll' is treated as 'should' and 'sollte' is 'should have'. In Kelber I and II, (Ginn, 1955) the present tense 'soll' is 'shall', and the imperfect 'sollte' is 'should'. Maybe German usage has changed over the those years. Do you know? If so, then I'll accept 'soll' as meaning 'should' although I must admit it's a loss to the German language I learnt to read (but not speak fluently) over 50 years ago.
As I understand, 'Soll ich es finden?' still means "Shall I find it?" and not "Should I find it?". Am I correct? There's more to say on this topic but I've said enough for now!
While yes, 'sollte' is also the past tense, it is also the subjunctive. 'Soll' is usually translated as 'shall' or 'supposed to', while 'sollte' is translated as 'should'. Your latter sentence would hence be 'I am supposed to find a second man'
The first one can't be past tense, as 'finden' is still in the present tense.