We consider an experimentally realizable scheme for manipulating quantum states using a general superposition of products of field annihilation (â) and creation (â †) operators of the type (sââ † + tâ †â), with s 2 + t 2 = 1. Such an operation, when applied on states with classical features, is shown to introduce strong nonclassicality. We quantify the generated degree of nonclassicality by the negative volume of Wigner distribution in the phase space and investigate two other observable nonclassical features, sub-Poissonian statistics and squeezing. We find that the operation introduces negativity in the Wigner distribution of an input coherent state and changes the Gaussianity of an input thermal state. This provides the possibility of engineering quantum states with specific nonclassical features. © 2012 IOP Publishing Ltd.