We investigate the settling speeds and root mean square (r.m.s.) velocities of inertial particles in isotropic turbulence with gravity using experiments with water droplets in air turbulence from 32 loudspeaker jets and direct numerical simulations (DNS). The dependence on particle inertia, gravity and the scales of both the smallest and largest turbulent eddies is investigated. We isolate the mechanisms of turbulence settling modification and find that the reduced settling speeds of large particles in experiments are due to nonlinear drag effects. We demonstrate using DNS that reduced settling speeds with linear drag (e.g. see Nielsen, J. Sedim. Petrol., vol. 63, 1993, pp. 835–838) only arise in artificial flows that, by design, eliminate preferential sweeping by the eddies. Gravity and inertia both reduce the particle r.m.s. velocities and falling particles are more responsive to vertical than to horizontal fluctuations. The model by Wang & Stock (J. Atmos. Sci., vol. 50, 1993, pp. 1897–1913) captures these trends.