I can see how this would be "the minutes pass" (in my head I kind of see it as "The minutes, they pass" or more literally "They, the minutes, pass"). But then how would you know if someone were saying "They pass the minutes?" (Ex. A group is waiting for someone to come home fairly soon, What do they do until the person arrives? Passano i minuti.) Would it simply be context? In which case, would "They pass the minutes" be a valid answer?
I think the context definitely matters here. I'm not sure whether or not adding "loro" would help clarify or not. I'll try asking my husband tonight [native Italian].
I wonder if introducing an additional pronoun like 'loro' would disambiguate it?
I believe that the italian sentence should be "I minuti passano" like a given example that say " I secoli passano"