is this how you make a past tense of a modal verb and if not what is this?

ich habe ... sollen.(is it the perfect past tense(would it mean I should have))

what is the difference between man sollst and man soll and man sollte?

1 Answer 1


You are stumbling over the Ersatzinfinitiv here.

This is Perfekt:

Ich habe eingekauft.

Ich habe gesollt.

But sollen requires a verb to define what you should have done. In this case auf Hochdeutsch it's not

Ich habe einkaufen gesollt.

but instead

Ich habe einkaufen sollen.

Please note the Ersatzinfinitiv isn't used in some Southern German dialects. For these, Ich habe einkaufen gesollt. is correct.

Same with müssen, können and other verbs which require a verb to define them further. Not only modals, but e.g. also brauchen, heißen, lassen, sehen, hören, fühlen, helfen. For the latter, it's often hard to guess when to use the Ersatzinfinitiv and when not.

Ich habe ihr einkaufen geholfen.

Ich habe ihr einkaufen helfen sollen.

simple but … tricky …

man soll and man sollte differ in tense. The first is Präsens, the latter Präteritum. If you aren't sure about the man, replace it with er. They are both third person.

For this reason man sollst is ungrammatical. Because man is third person, while sollst is second person.

  • 1
    Are you sure about your remark about Southern German dialects not using the Ersatzinfinitiv? I live in Austria (albeit Vorarlberg, but relavites all over Austria), but never heard it in Austrian German without an Ersatzinfinitiv; at least not that I can now construct a sentence in any Austrian dialect that would sound awfully wrong without it. Can you specifiy which dialects are affected?
    – king_nak
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 8:50
  • Not sure. I had a source for that at some point but I cannot find it.
    – Janka
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 17:20

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