This article analyses the extent to which four well-known general cognitive constraints – syntactic priming, cognitive routinisation, markedness of coding and structural integration – impact the linguistic output of translation students and professional translators similarly. It takes subject placement variation in Dutch as a test case to gauge the effect of the four constraints and relies on a controlled corpus of student and professional French-to-Dutch L1 news translations, from which all declarative main clauses with either a preverbal or a postverbal subject were extracted. All corpus instances were annotated for four random variables, the fixed variable expertise and ten other fixed variables, which were considered good proxies for the cognitive constraints. A mixed-effects regression analysis reveals that by and large the cognitive constraints have an identical effect on student and professional translators’ output, with priming and structural integration having the strongest impact on subject placement. However, students diverge from professionals when translating French clauses with a left-dislocated adjunct into Dutch, which is interpreted as an indication of a difference in automatisation when dealing with specific French-Dutch cross-linguistic differences.