In several Romance languages, including Catalan, Spanish, Asturian and Neapolitan, several verbs (‘phone’, ‘answer’, ‘shoot’, ‘rob’, among others) can take a dative- or accusative-marked complement. I argue that this alternation is indeed a transition from dative to accusative; that is, it is a process of syntactic change, with different stages of evolution depending on the dialectal or even idiolectal variety. The relevant verbs, being a priori dative-taking intransitive verbs, are analyzed as unergatives, made up of a light verb and a nominal, ‘phone= do+phone call’. When the complement ‘to somebody’ is added, a ditransitive structure is obtained, where I assume that the direct (‘phone call’) and the indirect (‘to somebody’) objects are related via an applicative head. The properties of this functional applicative head allow me to explain the change from dative to accusative case in the first stages of syntactic change. Likewise, I show that the completion of the syntactic change results in a true transitivization of the structure.