In Dutch, as in several other languages, many ditransitive verbs alternate between a construction with two unmarked NP objects coding the recipient and the theme (the double object construction , e. g. Hij gaf haar een geschenk ‘He gave her a present’) and a construction in which the recipient is marked by a preposition, viz. aan in the case of Dutch (the aan-construction , e. g. Hij gaf een geschenk aan zijn vrouw ‘He gave a present to his wife’). In this paper we take a diachronic and multifactorial perspective, both of which are lacking in the literature on the Dutch dative alternation. First, focussing on the dative alternation in early Modern Dutch, we show via a mixed-effects logistic regression model that, in the earliest period already, the alternation was determined by a cluster of semantic, formal and discourse-pragmatic factors. A comparison with a regression model for the late Modern English dative alternation (Wolk et al. 2013, Dative and genitive variability in Late Modern English: Exploring cross-constructional variation and change. Diachronica 30(3). 382–419) suggests that the cognitive mechanisms underlying a speaker’s choice for one of both ditransitive constructions hold cross-linguistically. Second, via a detailed diachronic comparison with a regression analysis for present-day Dutch, we show that through time a better correspondence seemed to emerge between the order of theme and recipient and the constructional choice. Word order principles more clearly play a role in the present-day alternation: the effects of several formal and discourse-pragmatic variables have become stronger, and the frequency of the non-canonical orders of both constructions has decreased.