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In real life, the transformation is a sea change, a large scale overhaul that leaves something very different than it was before. In Illustrator, a transformation is very nearly the opposite. A subtle operation that changes the path without affecting its original structure. Before and after a transformation, the points in a path maintain very similar relative positions. Consider scaling. If you enlarge a 5- pointed star, it's still a 5-pointed star. It's just bigger. Rotation is a transformation, so are reflecting and slanting.
Those are the main four but you can argue there are others as well. Offsetting a path moves all the points outward or inward. The Reshape tool often adds points but the stretch shape remains recognizable. And the simple act of moving a path is a transformation. But while transformations are hardly transformative, they are undeniably powerful. They permit you to size paths to match each other. You can re-purpose paths and build ambitious illustrations and with a few seconds work, you can transform and duplicate paths to create symmetrical shape sequences that would take minutes or even hours to render with traditional tools. So the Transform tools, they don't transform paths; they transform your ability to work with them.
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