christian, correct me if I'm wrong here :)
"soll" (present tense) and "sollte" (past) have slightly different meanings, just like "shall" and "should" in english. "du solltest einen Apfel essen" ("you should eat an apple") is less compelling than "du sollst einen Apfel essen" (meaning something like "you have to eat an apple"), even though the two sentences have basically the same meaning.
"dass" is a conjunction and "das" is a definite article/demonstrative pronoun/relative pronoun.
As I understand the placement of negation is after the first verb unless the verb is in reference to an object in which case the thing is also included in the negation.. as in "Ich habe es nicht." right?
.. but why is besser also before the negation... what role does "better" play in this sentence?
It's an adverb modifying "sollen" in its past subjunctive form. It's hard to spot the past subjunctive here, because the past indicative form is the same - but look at the unusual English: "I had better not eat that", where the verb phrase is "I had eat" - clearly not your every day grammar going on here! It's not surprising that anyone should have issues translating this.
As a separate issue, this is a two verb sentence. The placement of "nicht" in any two verb sentence is before the verb at the end: "Ich konnte gestern mein schönes Eis nicht essen."
OH you're right! but also wrong. :P I think .. it's something I didn't understand until you said this though. so as I understand it "sollen" is sort of like "should" which is almost the exact same concept as "having to do" something.. the latter depending on necessity and the former indicating personal choice.. so they are different right? Much like the English word "can" i find "having" very confusing where language is concerned. In the sense of personal action as it is here, perhaps it is the choice that is possessed or "had"? Such a realization came from you pointing out that besser is an adverb modifying this possessed or had choice and saying it is the better choosing to partake of. "I to choose better should not eat this" to have a better shoulding? haha. I'm not sure in language what the technical term for "should" is.. it's a strange concept. Since the food eating is a choice though, I suggest the verbal phrase would be more like "I should eat" .. a much less unusual translation for such an unusual subject matter.
As for my initial question thank you answered it. subject first verb time (place?) object negation second verb as infinitive or modal verb i guess that's called. not sure where the place goes if you want to tell me where you were yesterday when you couldn't eat your.... ice cream is it? :)
Yup - my ice cream ;) - and to say where I was, follow the "temp" (TMP) rule - in German the information always goes in the order Time, Manner, Place - yesterday unfortunately in the garden / at four o'clock hurriedly behind the bike shed / etc. so in my sentence it would come after "gestern", but flexibly before or after "mein schönes Eis".
Your thoughts on "sollen" make complete sense, and I'm delighted to have helped in prompting them! "Sollen" is "should", more or less. To be more precise, "sollen" is the modal verb of obligation, and we have several ways of expressing this in English, including "should", "ought to" and "have to". It's the "have to" which gives potential for confusion, because "have to" is a completely different meaning from "have" - and we even pronounce it differently in some accents, more like "haff to".
Language is great, isn't it!