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Broadly speaking there are three types transactions supported on Ethereum:

  1. Transfer of Ether from one party to another
  2. Creation of a smart contract
  3. Transacting with a smart contract

To undertake any of these transactions, it is necessary to have Ether (the fuel of the Ethereum blockchain) residing in the Ethereum account which the transactions are taking place from. This is to pay for the Gas costs, which is the transaction execution cost for the Ethereum client that performs the transaction on your behalf, committing the result to the Ethereum blockchain. Instructions for obtaining Ether are described below in Obtaining Ether

Additionally, it is possible to query the state of a smart contract, this is described in Querying the state of a smart contract