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John) Have you seen a koala?
Paul) Yes, I've seen one in the zoo.

I suppose you should say "I've seen one", not "I've seen it" here.

How about the following question?

Have you seen koalas?

Should the answer be

Yes, I've seen ones in the zoo.

or

Yes, I've seen them in the zoo.

Which should be used, ones or them?

2 Answers 2

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Yes, I've seen ones in the zoo.

is simply wrong. This response should not be used. The word "one" is not used in the plural in this construction.

One might say any of:

  • I've seen several in the zoo.
  • I've seen some in the zoo.
  • I've seen them in the zoo.
  • I've seen koalas in the zoo.

I would favor the first two myself, but any of these or of several possible similar responses would be perfectly acceptable.

A comment asks if one could reply with:

Yes, I have seen it.

No. First of all "it" would indicate a specific animal, previously referred to or identified, as in:

A: Have you sen the koala that the zoo just got?
B" Yes, I have seen it.

Here a specific koala is in question.

Also, some people object to using "it" for living beings, even ones that are not human.

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  • Answering the question "Have you seen a koala?" by "Yes, I have seen it" is wrong, isn't it?
    – kuwabara
    Mar 22, 2022 at 0:43
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    @kuwabara, You would say "Yes I have seen one" (because we're talking about a koala, not the koala). But shifting to the plural you'd say "I've seen some", not "I've seen ones".
    – The Photon
    Mar 22, 2022 at 1:13
  • How about "I've seen cute ones."? It's possible to use "ones" when it is combined with an adjective, isn't it? You wouldn't say "I've seen cute some", would you?
    – kuwabara
    Mar 22, 2022 at 1:33
  • @kuwabara Yes, when an adjective is present "ones" can be used in this way, although it rather suggests that most are not- cute, IMO. As for "it" see my recent edit to the answer above. Mar 22, 2022 at 1:40
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    I will note that "Yes, I have seen it" is, however, a valid answer to "Have you seen the koala?" because that specifies one koala.
    – Mary
    Mar 22, 2022 at 1:48
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You make a good point; this seems inconsistent, doesn't it? But the problem is that the word "ones" has only a very few uses, usually when you're talking about the actual number (for instance, when playing cards, you might say there are four "ones" in the deck).

In your example, "them" is probably the most reasonable choice. Another would be "some." I might offer you a candy and say "Take one." But if I meant for you to take more than one, but less than all of them, without saying exactly how many, I might say "take some."

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  • How about "I've seen cute ones"? You don't say "I've seen cute some", do you?
    – kuwabara
    Mar 22, 2022 at 0:48

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