Tim Bowen goes beyond the call of duty with this week's word grammar discussion.

Beyond can be used both as a preposition and as an adverb and can also function as a noun. As a preposition or adverb it indicates that something is further away or outside a particular area, as in 'Traders looked eastwards to India and beyond' and 'By now Dr Barnard’s fame had spread far beyond South Africa', or not within the limits of something, as in 'Scott pushed his men beyond the limits of human endurance'. It can also be used in negative sentences to mean except or apart from, as in 'I know nothing about him beyond the fact that he used to work for the government'. Beyond can also be used to mean after a time or an age or more than a particular amount, as in 'Some people will prefer to continue working beyond the age of 65' or 'Inflation had risen beyond 10%'.

The word also collocates with a number of nouns to show that something cannot be done, e.g. beyond our control, beyond repair, beyond doubt and beyond recognition. An example of the latter is 'The centre of Manchester has changed beyond (all) recognition'. Used with people or personal pronouns, the expression to be beyond someone means that it is too difficult for them to understand or deal with, as in 'The system was completely beyond the new trainees' and 'It’s beyond me why anyone should want to marry him'.

As a noun it is normally used in the expression the back of beyond, and if you live in the back of beyond, you live in a remote spot that is a long way away from any towns or cities. The back of beyond usually has a negative connotation, although some people might regard it as an advantage to be miles away from so-called civilization.