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This maybe a bit of Chinglish thinking.

For example you can say

It can be a [noun]

meaning

It's possible that this is a [noun]

Using pain as an example:

If you want to say the opposite, not sure should you say

It can not (to?) be a pain

since that feels like "It's not a pain" but not what I want to express:

It's possible that it is not a pain

I think this might be a better example:

I want to express the opposite of

You can choose this one

Which is:

You can choose not to choose this one

But I am after a shorter version of it.

I feel one way would be to say

You cannnnnnn, short pause, not to choose this one

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    It can be a pain is a slang expression meaning that something will cause difficulty. This is different from something being physically painful. I'm not clear which case you're talking about. – deadrat Sep 2 '16 at 6:35
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    Are you asking about, “It might not be a pain.” meaning there’s a possibility it could be easy. – Jim Sep 3 '16 at 7:27
  • "It will/should be painless." – Hot Licks Sep 4 '16 at 12:45
  • @Jim Yeah, I feel this is close. For example, if I want to express the opposite of "You can choose this one", what I really want to say is that "You can choose not to choose this one". But I am after a simpler version of that. – zhanke Sep 27 '16 at 6:06
  • "doesn't/don't have to" and "needn't" seem appropriate. "It doesn't have to be pain" or "It needn't be a pain". We thought that it would be a pain, but it needn't be (a pain). – kasfme Sep 27 '16 at 12:35
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"Always a pleasure" is the phrase I would consider to be the opposite of "It can be a pain". For instance someone in a service industry might say to a colleague "It can be a pain dealing with awkward customers but it's always a pleasure serving people like Mrs Johnson". The word 'pain' here is really used as a synonym for 'chore', a chore being a tedious, onerous and possibly frustrating task. There is a phrase sometimes used to express the ideal attitude to customers which is "Always a pleasure, never a chore"

I think I now understand your question better and would now suggest 'might not be' as the opposite of 'can be' in this sense. As an example which does not use a slang term I am going to use "Replacing a headlamp bulb can be difficult, it depends on the car you have" and "Replacing a headlamp bulb might not be difficult, it depends on the car you have". I have used this example deliberately since some vehicles have headlamp bulbs which are notoriously difficult to replace while others have ones which can be replaced easily.

Your problem has arisen beacause the normal opposite of 'can be' which is 'cannot be' means that there is no possibility that the situation can arise. To return to my motoring analogy it would be incorrect to say "Replacing a headlamp bulb cannot be difficult". Although, having changed many headlamp bulbs in my lifetime, it was my first reaction when I was told that it can take a skilled mechanic two hours to change one on some cars!

Apologies to @Jim, I didn't notice your comment before I started my enormous update!.

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  • Thanks for answering! However pain is just a random word I used for this question. I want to know in general how to express the opposite in this kind of scenarios. – zhanke Sep 3 '16 at 6:59
  • BoldBen and Jim, Thanks both! Sorry I read Jim's comment before reading yours. Yeah, I think "might not be" sounds good in that case. So for example, if I want to express the opposite of "You can choose this one", what I really want to say is that "You can choose not to choose this one". But is there a shorter version? – zhanke Sep 27 '16 at 6:10
  • @zhankezk You could say "You could choose this one, or not, as you wish" – BoldBen Sep 27 '16 at 10:41

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