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I think this is what people commonly say:

褒めても何も出ないよ

But I feel iffy about the switch of subject here. 褒めても of course talks about the listener. Why does the subject switch to an inanimate thing in 何も出ない? It is no surprise that て形 connected sentences have multiple implied subjects (e.g. お金を貸してくださって、助かりました), but why not something like this with the speaker as the subject of the second clause:

褒めても何も出さないよ

Google seems to indicate this is indeed something people say (example), but not as commonly. Another option that crossed my mind is subject conformity:

褒めてもらっても何も出さないよ

It sounds weird no end and doesn't appear idiomatic at all. Why do people use the first version? Why 出る? Why is it necessary to give an unspecified object agency?

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    I think these sentences should be considered ても-connected rather than て形-connected.
    – goldbrick
    Mar 15 at 2:26
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I think you'd be assigning too much importance to subject agreement between connected clauses as a grammatical phenomenon if it crossed your mind even for a second. You are free to pick whatever subject you think is fit according to what makes pragmatic sense and your preference. So the subject agreement in 「褒めてもらっても何も出さないよ」 does not make it preferable to the other two in terms of grammar, and it's just wordier without an apparent merit.

「褒めても何も出ないよ」 is a highly idiomaticized expression, so people use it without thinking about its literal sense, but I understand your feeling that the speaker's using 「何も出ない」, thus effacing their own agency in the situation, is somewhat unexpected. It sounds as if they were talking about some mechanism (an inanimate thing, hence better compatibility with 「何も出ない」) that automatically gave out something in response to a certain stimulus. I think it wouldn't be too far-fetched to imagine that the prototypical utterance of this phrase was a jocular metaphor where the speaker was comparing themself to something like a vending machine (it could be anything, or nothing specific -- just a vague allusion to some kind of non-human quid-pro-quo mechanism), where you put your money in and it gives you a goodie in return.

On the practical usage front, there's some difference in nuance between 「褒めても何も出ないよ」 and 「褒めても何も出さないよ」. The former goes like "You won't get you anything flattering me, you know.", and the latter like "I won't give you anything even if you flatter me, you know.".

I'm not entirely sure if the translations make things clearer, but my main point is that 「褒めても何も出ないよ」 sounds more non-personal and humorous, while 「褒めても何も出さないよ」 possibly might sound a tad bit more like a refusal, like the speaker thought the flatterer were really trying to get something out of them. That maybe partly why the former is preferred.

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何も出ない{わよ/ぞ/よ} is a common humorous response to blatant flattery, and it can work even without saying 褒めても (or おだてても) explicitly. It sounds like "I know you flattered me, but thanks anyway".

So I think the main answer to your question is simply "set phrases and idioms are often idiosyncratic". Still, maybe one can argue that 何も出ない would sound better as a joking response since 何も出さない may sound a little too direct and harsh.

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  • Would 何も出ない in this sort of context be similar to how in English we might say "I'm left speechless" or "words escape me" when flattered/praised?
    – A.Ellett
    Mar 15 at 19:58
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    @A.Ellett 何も出ないよ doesn't mean "I'm speechless". It's more like "If you're trying to flatter me to get something out of me, it's not going to work."
    – naruto
    Mar 16 at 5:55
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    The usual English phrase for this is 'Flattery will get you nowhere'
    – Angelos
    Mar 16 at 6:29
  • @Angelos and naruto both: thank you for the feedback.
    – A.Ellett
    Mar 16 at 15:38

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