# Translation (geometry)

In Euclidean geometry, a **translation** is a geometric transformation that moves every point of a figure, shape or space by the same distance in a given direction. A translation can also be interpreted as the addition of a constant vector to every point, or as shifting the origin of the coordinate system. In a Euclidean space, any translation is an isometry.

In geometry, a **vertical translation** (also known as **vertical shift**) is a translation of a geometric object in a direction parallel to the vertical axis of the Cartesian coordinate system.^{[1]}^{[2]}^{[3]}

Often, vertical translations are considered for the graph of a function. If *f* is any function of *x*, then the graph of the function *f*(*x*) + *c* (whose values are given by adding a constant *c* to the values of *f*) may be obtained by a vertical translation of the graph of *f*(*x*) by distance *c*. For this reason the function *f*(*x*) + *c* is sometimes called a **vertical translate** of *f*(*x*).^{[4]} For instance, the antiderivatives of a function all differ from each other by a constant of integration and are therefore vertical translates of each other.^{[5]}

In function graphing, a **horizontal translation** is a transformation which results in a graph that is equivalent to shifting the base graph left or right in the direction of the *x*-axis. A graph is translated *k* units horizontally by moving each point on the graph *k* units horizontally.

For the base function *f*(*x*) and a constant *k*, the function given by *g*(*x*) = *f*(*x* − *k*), can be sketched *f*(*x*) shifted *k* units horizontally.

If function transformation was talked about in terms of geometric transformations it may be clearer why functions translate horizontally the way they do. When addressing translations on the Cartesian plane it is natural to introduce translations in this type of notation:

Taking the parabola *y* = *x*^{2} , a horizontal translation 5 units to the right would be represented by *T*((*x*, *y*)) = (*x* + 5, *y*). Now we must connect this transformation notation to an algebraic notation. Consider the point (*a*, *b*) on the original parabola that moves to point (*c*, *d*) on the translated parabola. According to our translation, *c* = *a* + 5 and *d* = *b*. The point on the original parabola was *b* = *a*^{2}. Our new point can be described by relating *d* and *c* in the same equation. *b* = *d* and *a* = *c* − 5.
So *d* = *b* = *a*^{2} = (*c* − 5)^{2}. Since this is true for all the points on our new parabola the new equation is *y* = (*x* − 5)^{2}.

In classical physics, translational motion is movement that changes the position of an object, as opposed to rotation. For example, according to Whittaker:^{[6]}

If a body is moved from one position to another, and if the lines joining the initial and final points of each of the points of the body are a set of parallel straight lines of length *ℓ*, so that the orientation of the body in space is unaltered, the displacement is called a .

*translation parallel to the direction of the lines, through a distance ℓ*

When considering spacetime, a change of time coordinate is considered to be a translation.

Because translation is commutative, the translation group is abelian. There are an infinite number of possible translations, so the translation group is an infinite group.

In the theory of relativity, due to the treatment of space and time as a single spacetime, translations can also refer to changes in the time coordinate. For example, the Galilean group and the Poincaré group include translations with respect to time.

One kind of subgroup of the three-dimensional translation group are the lattice groups, which are infinite groups, but unlike the translation groups, are finitely generated. That is, a finite generating set generates the entire group.

The inverse of a translation matrix can be obtained by reversing the direction of the vector:

Similarly, the product of translation matrices is given by adding the vectors:

Because addition of vectors is commutative, multiplication of translation matrices is therefore also commutative (unlike multiplication of arbitrary matrices).

While geometric translation is often viewed as an active process that changes the position of a geometric object, a similar result can be achieved by a passive transformation that moves the coordinate system itself but leaves the object fixed. The passive version of an active geometric translation is known as a translation of axes.

An object that looks the same before and after translation is said to have translational symmetry. A common example is periodic functions, which are eigenfunctions of the translation operator.