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Copernicus ventured to assert that the earth moved. He could scarcely have astonished and disturbed men more if he had actually set it moving.

The word could makes the part in bold sound to me as if it was written in the subjunctive mood, but I don't understand what that second sentence says.

Can you please help me paraphrase the sentence to make its meaning clearer?

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  • Questions on Stack Exchange are intended for future reference. I've edited your question to try to clarify what you intended to ask. Please feel free to edit it further or to roll back the changes. Glad you got your answer. :)
    – Lawrence
    Nov 17, 2017 at 15:53
  • I think the first sentence of this is a misquote--"the earth moved", not "the earth is moved."
    – Xanne
    Nov 17, 2017 at 22:37
  • Yes, you are right. I just fixed it.
    – Dave Hwang
    Nov 18, 2017 at 1:30

1 Answer 1

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He could scarcely have astonished and disturbed men more if he had actually set it moving.

People were bothered by the movement of the planets. They were really bothered. In fact, if you had told people that Copernicus was the one moving the earth, they really wouldn't be much more bothered.

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  • Thanks for your answer. Just understood it's a kind of humorous expression. I was quite confused before as I thought it is subjective mood.
    – Dave Hwang
    Nov 17, 2017 at 15:44

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