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A virtual function allows derived classes to replace the implementation provided by the base class. The compiler makes sure the replacement is always called whenever the object in question is actually of the derived class, even if the object is accessed by a base pointer rather than a derived pointer. This allows algorithms in the base class to be replaced in the derived class, even if users don't know about the derived class.
The derived class can either fully replace (override) the base class member function, or the derived class can partially replace (augment) the base class member function. The latter is accomplished by having the derived class member function call the base class member function, if desired