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I responded to it generally TVK, but I'll try to elaborate more.

On Shabbat, there are a variety of prohibited actions. Among these is carrying. Specifically, three types of carrying are prohibited.

1) Carrying from a public domain to a private domain
2) Carrying from a private domain to a public domain
3) Carrying within a public domain

Now by biblical law, there are certain things that are clearly public domains. There are also areas that are sort of questionable (called a "karmelit" (like the ocean or an open field) Specifically they have to be of a certain size, not have a roof, and have a large number of people moving through them each day. A clear example of a private domain would be your house. But what about your front yard, if it isn't enclosed? Or open spaces on a college campus?

What an eruv (which means "mixing") does is to extend the private domain and clarify what is and is not considered private domain. It cannot be built around something that is considered a public domain by biblical law.

There is also a prohibition against travelling more than a certain distance outside of a city on shabbat, but that is separate.

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