By "in-place replacement" I mean to replace the word without changing the sentence structure. For example:
To distinguish narcotics as either soft or hard.
Can we say that?
In other words, can "distinguish" be used with "as either... or" instead of "between... and"?
I know I could say "to classify" or "to categorize" but I think that these words convey a notion of a somewhat elaborate (or at least non-trivial) process, while I want to convey the meaning of a very simple and direct action.
Another word that I am also not sure I could use is "to differentiate". I think "differentiate" really needs "between... and", right? I can hardly imagine being able to say "To differentiate narcotics as either soft or hard."
The actual (technical) sentence I am working on, if it matters, is "we achieve so-and-so by distinguishing connections as either inputs or outputs."