‘Time going by’ or ‘time passing’ – are two very common terms that we all understand (or think we understand). And they infer the notion of time as a universal thing (a flow, or a presence maybe) and it is continually flowing by.
But if we don’t know what time is, how can we assert that it ‘passes’? We know the clock is going round, we know that day is turning to night; we know that we are getting older. But these are actually independent change event-series happening. They don’t need some universal umbrella called time wrapped around them. They all happen because of (complex and intricate) events caused by, essentially, energy differential. Time doesn’t impact these. They all just happen independently (see ‘time as a force?’).
When we see the clock going round, all we know for certain is that the clock is going round. We can’t assert from that that a universal phenomenon (time passing) is occurring [unless we have conclusively identified what time is, and can prove the control it is exerting over the clock , or some other link it has to the mechanics of the clock].
Not only are we using the word time in the sense of a mass noun (a non-specific set of events), but we are also using it incorrectly. You can’t assert that time passes unless you can explain what it is that is actually passing. Do we know? No, else we would have defined time in terms of something that could ‘pass’.
All we know, for certain, is that events happen. And as a mass noun, time is a collective term for an unspecified set of events happening used in this context. To apply the verb ‘passing’ to it is probably strictly speaking incorrect; we use this as a figure of speech – time seems to pass. Anyway, we all sort of know what we mean by it.
It’s just that it’s wrong. We can’t assert that time passes, empirical evidence shows only that things (events) happen.